West-meets-East Coast menswear designer Willy Chavarria knows how to say so much in so many words.
By Marissa Lee.
In a perfect world, I would’ve sat across from Willy Chavarria in his studio and pressed him about a variety of topics, from his artistic musings to his political standpoint. But like most communication in this era, my conversation with the designer occurred over email, with Chavarria providing me succinct answers to my questions.
Much like his answers, Chavarria and the WILLY CHAVARRIA brand are to the point, and waste no time in saying what they need to. He is the mind behind runway shows soundtracked to a voice that rumbles “Have you ever seen a person in a cage?” and clothing tagged with “Capitalism is heartless.” While these concepts are broadly on trend, they’re born out of reverence and a social call to action that aims to pay respect to all things human.
“A tucked in white T-shirt with wide pressed khakis and a black belt as worn by Chicanos is the most beautiful silhouette to me,” Chavarria explains. The Mexican-American designer grew up in the San Joaquin Valley of California and has the Mexican working class spirit ingrained in his ethos, thanks to his parents. “Taking work clothes and making them fashion in this way is at the heart of my brand.”
The designer’s focus on his cultural upbringing is not nearly the sole motivator in his work. Rather, it seems to be an all-around respect for the human condition that allows for the WILLY brand to thrive. As per the designer’s mission, “[I want] to create empowering clothing that is expressive in its approach to silhouette and fabrication. To infuse the emotion of art and modern politics into a reactionary story of the human will. To promote and partner with organizations that work towards achieving social justice.”
It’s difficult to nail down exactly what the “reactionary story of the human will” is, but perhaps it’s related to understanding one’s place in society in relation to current social discourse. It’s no coincidence that reverence for one’s culture, combating hate and injustice, promoting love and equality, and expressing concern for the environment’s wellbeing are some of the largest social issues at present and the pillars of the WILLY CHAVARRIA brand. He’s no stranger to fusing the aforementioned social issues into his garments, for example creating his cholo and Chicano-inspired Fall 2020 collection out of 100% recycled materials, in partnership with Recyctex.
“[The current conversation about social justice] mostly looks like regurgitated lip service. It will always be true to my brand to put humanity at the forefront – if the world continues on the current path we are on, we won’t survive,” expresses the designer.
It’s through his work that Chavarria takes it upon himself to spread the word and set the social record straight. “Those that keep quiet create the injustices we see every day by accepting the status quo,” he explains. “My hopes for 2021 are that people don’t look at 2020 as if it were some sort of bizarre outlier of a year.”