On a Sunday night in the Financial District, long after the bedtime of stock traders and suits, Chromat’s team of 22 models assembled in the Rise by We gym to complete their final training for the 2020 Chromat Olympics.
Clad in brilliant striped and swirled performance fabrics, models rotated through sets of deadlifts, battle ropes, and speed drills. The uniforms, united in form and function, lacked the cloy of nationalism that haunts Olympic garb.
Hunched over barbell racks, crouching inside the mouth of the smith machine, the training session took the performance out of traditional runway presentations, testing the full, sweaty range of possibilities for the collection of bodywear that imagines a radically inclusive lineup of trans, non-binary, and disabled models-turned challengers. Among the circuit training athletes was sex educator, Ericka Hart, USA Paralympian, Femita Ayanbeku, and gender non-conforming writer and performance artist, Alok Vaid-Menon.
Now going into their 11th year, Chromat’s founder, Becca McCharen-Tran is pushing their size-inclusive bodywear into new arenas, challenging traditional ideas of Olympic-worthy bodies and competitors. In protest against cited practices of body modification and mutilation forced upon women, intersex and non-binary athletes looking to compete at the Olympic level, Chromat recently shared that their AW 2020 collection reimagines “sport as a unifying celebration of collaborative talent across the gender spectrum.”
After a brief stretch and cool down, models hurried into a connected studio filled with treadmills and floor to ceiling mirrors, where they were led through a dance and cardio routine that was as arduous as it was joyous. Humid with body heat and glowing under neon blue track lights, the dancers bounced across the room, guided by the voice of their instructor— dancer and fitness instructor, Basit, who also collaborated with McCharen-Tran on the music for the show. Among the roster of dancers was DJ Maya Margarita, Brooklyn drag queen, West Dakota, and curator and writer, Kimberly Rose Drew.
Like catching a glimpse of a dance class through a street-level window, the audience peered over huddled shoulders and between phone screens to witness the vulnerability and delight of dancer catching on to the choreography of each Zumba-esque sequence before the next song began and each dancer took a beat to catch another breath.
It was here, in these spaces between gasping and glowing with endorphins, where the triumph of this show became clear. For a rare moment, each of us present was included in Chromat’s vision of a radically new, genderless future of sport.
Review by Kathryn Muller @qualmsy