How did Willy Chavarria win the 2023 American Menswear Designer of the Year award?
Just this September, Willy Chavarria’s spring 2024 show, his “most emotional collection” yet, as he described it to Hypebeast, hit the runway. The Fresno, California, fashion designer has always viewed his design practice as a means of self-reflection, and a platform to build those who look, see, and feel as he does. But what most distinguished the Spring 2024 collection was its ability to express the different aspects of Chavarria’s personality: aspects that seemed, at one point, to be an obstacle to his success in the world of famously exclusive fashion.
Chavarria’s powerful, honest interpretation of those historically disenfranchised connotations—his queerness, his biracial identity as the descendant of an Irish-American mother and a Mexican-American father, and his working-class upbringing among migrant farmers in California’s San Joaquin Valley—is terrifying. -Inspiring for anyone who can see themselves in it. On the evening of November 6, Chavarria accomplished what seemed unattainable: he was named American Menswear Designer of the Year at the 2023 CFDA Fashion Awards.
“We need to do everything we can through our actions, or through our humanitarian context or our daily lives, to make others feel loved and empowered,” Chavarria said as he accepted his award, wearing a stately white rose on his left lapel. This philosophical reflection, albeit one directed at the unprecedented global political events that he is witnessing today in the context of his speech, has long established Chavarria’s brand; This is the essence of his brand’s importance to the industry.
In less than a decade, Chavarria has transformed himself from an obscure designer at mid-tier fashion brands (like Joe Boxer and American Eagle) into the most recognized Latino designer on the American fashion circuit. His unconventional design language challenges those of traditional brands, and in founding his eponymous label in 2015, Chavarria’s abandonment of the standardization of corporate fashion allowed his personal priorities, which had always been to elevate those with shared identities into his own, to Center of attention. His mood paintings.
He first captured New York’s attention by placing his spring 2018 collection inside The Eagle, the city’s popular, leather-filled gay bar. The line, titled “Cruising,” had an obvious connection to the events of that organization, but it also referenced the Lowrider culture that represented his Latino upbringing in the 1980s. It was romantic, seductive and down-to-earth – three descriptions that quickly became synonymous with the Willy Chavarria brand.
Those who own a piece of his collection have probably noticed the mini green tab that says “Heartless Capitalism.” It’s a testament to the brand’s unwavering commitment to authenticity, and perhaps also a nod to the freedom the designer gained once he was given the opportunity to step away from the money-driven brands that lived just a few pages off his CV. Chavarria runs a business. But it is quite clear that he does not think about achieving the highest profits. He thinks about his impact, both on the people he meets and the planet.
For spring 2020, his designs were motivated by the styles of ’90s Bay Area partygoers—more specifically, those who attended his events at The Love Garage, a San Francisco nightclub he ran while attending school in The Bay. The group played with the tensions between queerness and masculinity to create a collection that gradually adhered to the new-age man.
Two years later, in the spring of 2022, several shirtless men, wearing high-waisted trousers and box pleats with pronounced skirt-like proportions, were sent to a makeshift runway at Astor Place Hairstylists (a 74-year-old underground barber), the store that had almost Closed during the pandemic). Their femininity was contrasted with hyper-masculine leather jackets and Western-inspired ensembles that paid tribute to his days in the field. This breadth, coupled with the likes of Offset sitting in the front row, made the scene seem applicable to all types of men while still indicative of Chavarria’s core identity.
The models on designer runways are as expressive as the clothes. Chavarria Man is unlike any other neighborhood brand in New York: there are fat guys, short kings, tall boys, guys in their 40s and 50s, guys with hair down to their backs, and guys with long hair. They abandoned their masculine identifiers completely. In his careful selections, Chavarria seeks to change not only the standards of beauty in fashion, but also those assigned to Latino men.
With his notoriety growing, Chavarria was named senior vice president of design at Calvin Klein in 2021. While the role may resemble that of his former self at the company on paper, Chavarria’s sharp tailoring smoothly gives way to simple, multi-billion-dollar icons. brand, where he specifically leads the “conceptual vision” for its North American collections. With his large check from PVH, he was able to further the artistic nature of his namesake imprint.
His exciting approach to brand building is the key to his decorated achievement. But the inner workings of his design process prove that it’s not all for show. For his Spring 2023 collection, which included a mix of tailored clothing and affordable collaborations with Dickies, FB Country and Pro Club, Chavarria made sure that 60% of his designs were made by hand, rather than by machine. . In doing so, he placed his radically accessible designs in the same category as his more expensive classic items with a couture-like production plan that ultimately prioritized sustainability.
His latest collection for Spring 2024 was his “most original,” as he put it. His personal influences were remarkably plentiful, the most notable of which was the idea of “manliness” that had ingrained generations of men before him—more specifically, the hats his father and grandfather wore while working long days in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley. “It’s a symbol of masculinity,” Chavarria said of the hats. “The idea of masculinity has been pretty much shattered. It doesn’t mean the same as it used to.”
The hats, often decorated with red roses, were just the beginning of Chavarria’s expanded production, which included sportswear, evening wear, streetwear and lingerie simultaneously. It was deliberately restrained, deliciously unexpected, and intensely romantic. Above all, he demonstrated how effortlessly he could erase the lines between previously separate spheres of menswear.
Eight years after launching his namesake brand, the line has painted a contemporary picture of who Willy Chavarria is today: an experimental and provocative fashion purveyor of menswear removed from the genre; An introspective creative who has mastered the art of unapologetically self-expression; A beacon for the LGBTQ, Latinx, and immigrant communities in fashion; And now, American Menswear Designer of the Year. For those looking for the secret sauce to his triumphant career thus far, Chavarria keeps his words of wisdom succinct: “Work hard. Don’t give up. Follow your heart.”