Go big or go home they say, and in the case of Willy Chavarria, he went supersize for his return to the runway.
In one of the more positive collections from the veteran designer, the show took place in one of New York’s best-known Lower Manhattan barber shops — Astor Place Hairstylists — where a story of grit and glamour came to life.
“I usually take a darker view of things, and I wanted this to be as New York as it gets,” Chavarria said backstage as he prepared the final looks for the upcoming lineup.
“The voice of this collection is to make clear this elevated and beautiful form of fashion in the most true New York way, where it’s from the gut, in the belly, underground, like this barbershop that has been serving the Latino community for years. I wanted people to smell the hair tonic, feel the not-so-great AC.”
His intention was to celebrate the endurance and passion of the Latino community — with links to the ’70s and ’80s — but the result was more than that and shined a spotlight on cultural influences that Chavarria recognizes within his own Latino community. As the show began, the message was evident: the revisiting of American classics with a treatment of couture-like constructions — a supersized high-waisted pleated khaki pant with a hint of a baby blue boxer short peeking out opened the show, a nod to simple classic workwear normcore, but elevated.
The lineup featured luxurious fabrics (silk organzas and chiffons) in familiar but unusual shapes such as a button-down work shirt that became ethereal with exaggerated collar points and unnaturally high neck, and trousers that sat high on the waist in exciting colors and shapes that were intriguing in their approach.
Chavarria’s effort blended the cholo aesthetic that has come to be appreciated in his work with a conceptual twist that created classic American staples resembling sculptures — shirts with bell-shaped sleeves and pant details that were reminiscent of traditional workwear with hook-and-eye closures at the belt loop, the long rise, structure at the knee and bulbous curves in the back.
The show was produced in partnership with Squarespace and offered a see now, buy now experience for the audience with select styles available for immediate purchase on Willy’s Squarespace website following the unveiling of the collection. The partnership also included a donation program to benefit “It’s From the Sole,” a nonprofit organization providing footwear to people experiencing homelessness in New York City.
New York Fashion Week has seen a decline in participation from the men’s wear arena over the past couple of seasons, but it’s still a true testament that with Chavarria’s all-inclusive shows — which featured a mix of models, street casting and friends — his strong affinity for silhouette and structure, and the means by which he continues to incorporate the Latino community, he has proven that a collection of clothing can actually have a cultural impact.