Designer Bishme Cromartie found inspiration through science fiction and fantasy when creating his latest fashion line, best described as streetwear meets avant-garde.
The Baltimore native tapped into the pop culture hit “The Matrix” in creating the fall collection, which debuts next week during New York Fashion Week. This is his second showing in the Big Apple since winning “Project Runway All Stars” in September.
Cromartie said the collection, named “Batrix” as a riff off of the movie, is for the woman “who is ready for change, constantly on the go, and loves to stand out — no matter where she is.”
Expect “striking, feminine and bold shapes” paired with a plethora of coats, tops and “dramatic” gowns, he said.
“Creating a world for myself is always my goal, but I never name the world or bring the characters to life from it. I just focus on the clothes,” he said.
Cromartie estimates he’s watched the first installment of “The Matrix” no less than 10 times. And, although customers won’t see a piece-by-piece mimicking of the futuristic wardrobes featured in the series, Cromartie said the alternate universe and reality themes of the movie are really what will shine through in his collection.
“Although you won’t clearly see references, you will get a sense that you’re in another place. I’m diving a bit into showing more of the world I’m currently in. I love designing with my emotions. It’s like a release. This collection is a big release for me,” he said.
Cromartie’s desire to “deprogram” is summed up in one line from “The Matrix,” when Morpheus gives Neo an ultimatum and says: “You can make a decision, but ultimately you know what you have to do.”
“And that’s exactly how I feel within this new chapter of my life as a designer,” Cromartie said.
Just days before New York Fashion Week the self-taught fashion designer spoke to The Baltimore Banner about his latest collection and his recent appearance on the talk show “Sherri.”
How has your aesthetic changed since your ‘Project Runway All Stars’ win?
I feel like my aesthetic is the same since my “Project Runway All-Stars” win. It’s just a little more enhanced and direct. I’m kind of in a place of relief and have more confidence within the next era/realm I’m moving towards with my designs.
What was it like being featured on ‘Sherri’?
I honestly had an amazing time on the Sherri Shepard show. The love and support from everyone was so beautiful. I used to watch “The Jamie Foxx” show with my sister, and Sherri was a character on there. So, to me, it felt like it was an amazing moment I will never forget.
Were there any conversations held off camera?
Yes, there were!
And what did you discuss?
It was a manifestation and I have faith it will happen. I can’t say more than that.
Does she wear your clothes?
(laughing) Maybe she will very soon.
What is the key to attracting new customers — whether that be celebrities or everyday people?
The key to attracting new customers is to be your authentic self. No one is looking for the next anyone. They’re just looking for you.
Who has been the most surprising celebrity to reach out to congratulate you?
I think the most surprising celebrity that congratulated me would have to be singer Michelle Williams from Destiny’s Child. Stylist J. Bolin called and told me someone wanted to speak to me. He dressed her in a gown of mine for the “Renaissance” movie premiere. Hearing her voice when J. Bolin handed her the phone was a bit surreal. All I could do was gasp and gag as my skin began to feel chills with every word she spoke.
What are you most excited about for this newest fashion week collection?
I think I’m excited about allowing people to see where my brain is currently stationed. This will be more intimate.
What are your two favorite looks for this collection?
The “Showing Face” gown and definitely the black vinyl off-the-shoulder puffer would be my favorite two looks from this collection, if I had to choose.
Have any of your designs shown up at any major awards this season?
Is there still a celebrity you haven’t had the opportunity to dress?
I haven’t had Beyonce in anything yet. Once that happens, I think I will be honestly done with dressing celebs. Just kidding.
Where are you living?
I currently live in Los Angeles.
When was the last time you were in Baltimore?
The last time I was in Baltimore was for my sister’s funeral ceremony, which was July 2022. It’s a little challenging going home knowing I won’t be able to physically see my angel.
What Baltimore food are you craving the most right now?
(laughing) Right now, the Baltimore food I’m craving the most would have to be a crab cake and a jumbo half and half.
What’s next for you?
Honestly just a bunch of executing, building my team and creating my inner peace in this new chapter of my life.