A choral church choir opened Willy Chavarria's New York Fashion Week presentation, filling Astor Place Barbershop with a heavenly soundtrack that juxtaposed the dark, gritty space located in Lower Manhattan's underground. What emerged next were "The Angels," or a series of shirtless models ambling in Spring 2022's hugely oversized chinos belted high up on the ribcage above colorful boxers. You could argue they were "sagging," if only the pants didn't sit just beneath models' nipples.
This look, which dramatized and romanticized an everyday staple, ushered in a show that saw the queer Chicano designer transforming workwear through larger-than-life silhouettes and playful hues. Once the music switched over to a pounding beat that rattled Astor Place's rows of mirrors, the rest of Chavarria's vision unfolded with exaggerated collars or necklines that pulled tighter to the neck than normal. It all looked completely familiar, albeit slightly off-kilter.
Chavarria has always pulled influence from the world around him, leaning less into fashion or its glossy depictions, and more into the way real people dress. He loves the surprise of personal style and especially what he saw growing up on the streets of California. He lives for subversion and celebrating what's pushed to the fringes as a centerpiece worth fighting for. "The clothing is a reflection of an observed, but amplified reality," Chavarria says of his eponymous label.
Titled CUT DEEP, Chavarria's latest NYFW collection is available for immediate purchase on his website, in partnership with Squarespace. Sales from this relationship also support a donation program to benefit It's From the Sole, a nonprofit that provides footwear for homeless folks throughout NYC. Because if Chavarria's inspiration "is always found in reality," as he explains, it's important for fashion to also address that reality.
What was the significance of the show's location and how did it help tell the collection's larger story?
I wanted the grit of New York to play off the elegance of the clothing. Astor Place Barbershop is as New York as it gets.
The giant trousers were perfection and I loved that you repeated them in multiple colors. What was the thought process?
I called these looks, "The Angels." It was meant to feel almost like a dream, these four beautiful guys walking out in the giant "Ballroom Chinos" and then BAM... the rest of the show hits.
Some of the looks felt perfect for sharing on social media — the trousers, the giant collars. Do you think about the internet and meme-ification of fashion when you design?
How do you think this collection represents the core and evolution of Willy Chavarria?
When I created Willy Chavarria, this was all there all along. But you have to write one chapter at a time.
How do you find a balance of maintaining the authenticity of these workwear staples, while still elevating them to a luxury audience?
The clothing always comes from a real place no matter how exaggerated. The inspiration is always found in reality, in how real people dress.
"The clothing is a reflection of an observed, but amplified reality."
Offset was sitting front row — are you a fan? Is there anyone else you envision wearing these clothes?
I'm a fan of anyone who keeps it real and Offset certainly does. He came backstage afterwards and said "what's up?" to all the models. I envision the whole world wearing Willy.
Your clothes have always been a reflection of your own identity. How do you see that playing out this season?
The clothing is a reflection of an observed, but amplified reality. My identity and heritage are intrinsically linked as they always are in my collections.