Chromat RTW Spring 2019

The Phluid Project on Wednesday posted an open letter to New York Fashion Week designers on its social media accounts, challenging them to “break the binary” when considering the models who will walk in their shows. “You have the platform and the global stage to make an impact,” said the letter. “…cast models of all identities, inclusive of transgender and nonbinary representation. In doing so, you will stand up for millions of individuals whose voices and existence deserve to be acknowledged.”

Rob Smith, founder of The Phluid Project, a gender-free retailer in Manhattan, and a leading activist for the store’s constituents, said the Council of Fashion Designers of America is aware of the letter. “We offered to help support them by retweeting their content around the letter,” the CFDA said, adding that that’s the extent of its involvement at this time. “We do believe in the importance of the letter and everything that they stand for.”

“With the CFDA’s progressive inclusion of nonbinary collections, there is a further opportunity to cast differently and shed light on all humans,” the letter said.

“I recognize that this is fashion and their first job is to present their clothing in the best way possible,” Smith said. “That said, there’s an opportunity to be more inclusive and you can show nonbinary and transgender models. We live in a time when we need acceptance and tolerance and unity more than ever.”

“Our goal is to design empowering garments for all bodies,” Becca McCharen, founder of Chromat, said in the letter. “Our runway shows celebrate the inspiring women, femmes and nonbinary #Chromatbabes who inspire us to be bold and unapologetic every day. The future is empowering, inclusive and sustainable.”

Smith said he hasn’t heard from large brands. “I hope the big fashion houses do join,” he said. “We’re an authority not in the space of design creation. We’re a leader in the space of inclusivity and representation. We create product, but it’s not at the level yet of these designers. We’re asking them to use their platforms to represent the community.”