UVA Today’s Robert Hull reports:
For many of her fans, Beyoncé’s halftime show at Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans on Sunday was perhaps the game’s finest moment. She brought her A-game to the event, performing a medley of her hits before being joined by Destiny’s Child bandmates.
The show featured plenty of fire, ice and smoke, and used lots of energy to light up the stage. After the power outage during the Super Bowl’s second half, broadcast and online commentators even joked that Beyoncé’s electrifying performance was to blame. (For the record, stadium officials have said that the performance did not cause the outage, as the halftime show brought its own generators.)
Beyoncé appeared on a rising platform, and was clad in an all-black ensemble with heels and a leather get-up. Her outfit, along with the costumes of her numerous fellow dancers and performers, underscored the halftime theme of female empowerment.
The halftime show’s eye-catching outfits were designed by the company Chromat, one of New York City’s leading fashion labels and the brainchild of Becca McCharen, 28, a 2006 graduate from the U.Va. School of Architecture.
In less than five years after graduating from U.Va., McCharen went from working as an urban planner at City Hall in her hometown of Lynchburg to designing onstage costumes for such pop icons as Madonna.
Kate Perry, Pink, Nicki Minaj, Azealia Banks and many other pop music artists have worn McCharen’s work. Her distinctive garments have been used in numerous editorial spreads for influential fashion magazines such as “Vogue” and “Paper.”
McCharen’s accomplishments have bucked the fashion system – she holds no formal fashion design training and works as a designer with a feminist bent.
As a teenager, McCharen loved fashion, but was not aware that fashion design could exist as a real career. In an interview this week for local television in Lynchburg, McCharen’s mother discussed her daughter’s design activities while a student at Jefferson Forest High School.
“Becca would get a long T-shirt, stay up half the night tearing it apart and then safety pin it all together and wear it to school the next day,” Karen McCharen said.
After high school, the eager young fashion designer attended U.Va.’s Architecture School to acquire practical skills to establish a more traditional path toward a career.
As a student, McCharen worked in a costume shop, which is where she learned to sew. Increasingly, as she attended architecture classes, she began to return to her love of fashion design.
After graduation, McCharen worked her day job in Lynchburg for two years while developing her Chromat fashion label in the evenings. Immediately after work, she would run home, sew clothes and costumes, and create stuff for fun.
While making outfits for her friends, McCharen discovered she wanted to make cohesive collections around specific themes. From there, she started putting on homegrown fashion shows in Lynchburg.
Eventually she met a local connection whose daughter was a fashion designer in New York, and she introduced McCharen to the showroom International Playground. McCharen’s collections transitioned into a retail store, then a whole showroom and finally a thriving business.
McCharen’s designs for Chromat have been described as having strong architectural undertones, getting their inspiration from sources as varied as building scaffolding and body builders.
In several interviews, McCharen points to her Architecture School experience as being instrumental in her creative designs. As an undergraduate, she learned to thoroughly research the context of a building before designing it, and would work on many iterations of a single idea before editing them down. She believes she goes through the same process when designing her clothes.
Combining her education in architecture and urban design during her years at the University, McCharen’s approach with her design label is “to focus on structural experiments for the human body.”
At present, McCharen’s Chromat remains one of the leading fashion design companies in New York. Like many success stories in the world of pop culture, McCharen’s story has modest roots fueled by ambitious dreams.
Through hard work and a top-notch education, McCharen has created a name for herself and a growing reputation for her company – even to such a successful degree that, last month, Tina Knowles, Beyoncé’s mother, picked up the phone and ordered 32 costumes for her daughter’s upcoming Super Bowl halftime show.
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