There are fashion shows, and then there are fashion shows with a capital F. Over the last several seasons, Willy Chavarria has upped the ante with his runway, presenting in more opulent spaces like The Marble Collegiate Church in the NoMad neighborhood of Manhattan and turning up the glamour of his looks, refining his definition of American sportswear through the lens of a Mexican-American designer who speaks for those whose voices aren’t usually heard in the fashion world. Last night, Chavarria brought the style set over to Greenpoint for a truly epic showing of his passion and keen eye for what’s new and next.
Chavarria’s creative energy is so palpable in everything he does, from the cut of a blazer to his casting, sets, and the community he’s cultivated; it’s only natural, then, that he extended his universe visually to a film. The show opened with a massive white table lined with candles, and behind a black curtain hung a screen where the designer unveiled his directorial debut. The moody, hot film features supermodels Dilone and Paloma Elsesser, poet and activist Kai-Isaiah Jamal, and Italian pop star Mahmood, all clad in Chavarria underwear and experiencing a range of raw emotions, from anger, to sadness, to heartbreak, to loneliness, to lust. The cast wanders around the house in isolation, distant yet longing for comfort in the unknown. The end shows the two main characters meeting and embracing, accepting the yin and yang, the light and dark inside each of us. The best way to combat difference, in Chavarria’s experience, is through fashion, music, and dance—creative release and exaltation.
Fashion was what was on the proverbial menu, perhaps Chavarria’s finest showing included the debut of his first-ever handbag and belt, adorned with a cheeky “WC” logo. All the traditional nods to American sportswear were present and Willy-fied: massive camel overcoats, cable-knit sweaters, plaid ruffled shirts, and sweeping houndstooth trousers. His sense of proportion, and restraint with a finely edited 37 looks, was on full display, with massive shoulders on floor-length coats taking up space and the sweeping sleeves of the ideal leather bomber jackets radiating a cool that few designers today can achieve. The muted tans, browns, and blacks appeared striking against layers of gold jewelry and pops of red, with masterful styling by Carlos Nazario echoing the streets while pushing the notion of getting dressed up further, harkening back to ’80s power dressing without feeling intimidating.
Since leaving his post at Calvin Klein last summer, Chavarria’s devotion to creating his own lexicon has gotten as sharp as his suiting. Nobody is doing menswear like him, although men aren’t the only ones in the Willy world: everybody is, and, perhaps more importantly, every body. It’s only fitting that Chavarria himself closed the show and rightly brought the house down. The powerful suggestions of dress were as powerful as the questions the collection posed: Who are we behind closed doors, when we’re wearing nothing but our underwear? Who are we when we get dressed in the morning? According to Chavarria, we are people who feel deeply and seek inclusivity. There is a spirituality to his work, yes, from the Catholic influences of his youth, but his ethos is one of human connection. You don’t need to believe in God; you only need to believe in the power of each other. Because, these days, it’s all we have.
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