Funding Fashion: Chromat and Bandelettes

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For the past few years, Chromat has staged a press takeover for NYFW.  Their PR agency is definitely kept busy, through a dynamic combination of diverse casting, interesting pieces and their rallying cry for women and femmes to become a #ChromatBabe.

While I wait for Chromat to drop a 4X this winter, I’ll snag this tee:

How the Heck Do They Fund This?

This^^^ is probably the most popular questions among aspiring designers (hi, me).  Fashion brands can be blackholes can be a blackhole for capital.  Paying for labor, manufacturing, marketing, etc, gets EXPENSIVE.  Money is invested in manufacturing and product development months before seeing a profit, and some fashion startups just can’t stay alive while waiting for that capital to come back in the form of wholesale or consumer purchases.  Chromat was awarded $150,000 from Vogue Fashion Fund in 2017, but that money is easy to spend.  Manufacturing minimums run in the tens of thousands of dollars, and purchasing fabric and notions isn’t cheap.

And, honey, let me tell you: Press coverage is fabulous, but it does not translate linearly to consumer purchases.  You can get a shit ton of press and move little product.

While I was chewing on this question, this this graphic showed up in my Instagram feed, illustrating the piles of cash it takes to make just a NYFW show happen (shoutout to great ad targeting):

Chromat hasn’t taken outside investment (that I’ve found), and that is a LOT of money.  Chromat keeps things sleek on the runway, but they’re still dropping tens of thousands of dollars on their runway shows.

So, how has Chromat founder, Becca McCharen-Tran grown her brand without outside investment?

Enter: Brand partnerships.

Luxury Fashion & Mass Market Brands

In modern fashion, mass market brands see more press mentions and coverage when associating themselves with a luxury retailer.  In marketing speak, this is called “Brand Association,” wherein a mass market (less expensive brand) can get snag some of that shine and spotlight from luxury brands – and the luxury brands get $$$.

While this can be risky and water down the brand (see all decisions made at Juicy Couture, post-acquisition), luxury brands have been doing this for YEARS.  Some designers have taken the check from more modest price points, and shoved that money right back into their brand.

Genius of Bandelettes & Chromat

Some brand partnerships have caused confusion and a devaluing of the luxury brand (a la Missoni and Target), or have fallen flat.

And, finding a brand to partner with was even more difficult for Chromat than other brands that show at NYFW.  Chromat shows a lot of skin on the runway (offering swim, sport and lingerie).  Finding a brand to partner with that wouldn’t detract from their pieces, while also getting that brand the attention it’s paying for is TOUGH.  Also, finding a larger brand that would match the ethos of inclusion and diversity that Chromat has – with an outspoken, queer and political founder – is no easy feat.

Enter Bandelettes.

What the heck is a “Bandelette”?

So the brand is called Bandelette, but the product isn’t.  Bandelettes produces anti-chafing thigh bands in a variety of fabrics in colors, for around $16.

A brand like Bandelettes isn’t going to get major fashion coverage without either paying for it, unless they create press opportunities.  Fashion PR is basically the Hunger Games, and fashion publications care about clicks or magazine purchases.  By partnering with Chromat, and associating themselves with a brand that gets a lot of coverage in major and elusive fashion mags, Bandelettes was able to leverage brand recognition in a way they likely wouldn’t have been able to do solo.

And bonus?  Chromat gets a lot of that press due to casting diverse models, especially plus models.  You know who has thick thighs that chafe?  Plus size babes.

Final Thoughts

  • I’d love to see Chromat partner with a beauty brand, given their styling at the last show.
  • I’ve never tried Bandelettes – have you?  What’s your take?  Let me know in the comments!

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