Willy Chavarria’s break into the fashion industry was far from conventional. Born into a Mexican-immigrant family of farm workers, then raised in the housing projects of California’s San Joaquin Valley, Chavarria only realised his dream of becoming a designer when he picked up a part-time job at underwear brand Joe Boxer.
There, he caught the attention of the design team with his naturally skilled sketches and landed a role in the design department. The late ‘90s then saw Chavarria find a job working on a new athletics line for Ralph Lauren - tilting his fashion know-how towards premium luxury. Flash forward to 2015: after building his career from the ground up for two decades, the designer decided it was time to make his own mark and burst onto New York’s fashion scene with a high-end take on casual streetwear.
Inspired by his upbringing and the minority communities he grew up around, Chavarria has an emotional and thought-provoking approach to design; he uses garments and runway shows to voice bold commentary on social, racial and political matters. “Any time we do a collection, we make an effort to address current social issues – this is an imperative part of our brand,” Chavarria tells ORDRE.
“We make an effort to address current social issues – this is an imperative part of our brand.”
These efforts include an outspoken cynicism towards the US government’s controversial rhetoric on immigration, seen in plays on American tropes. We saw this in roomy knitwear staples with upside-down American flags, oversized denim outerwear pieces displaying immigration-inspired motifs, and tees featuring inverted versions of the word ‘America’.
This season he hopes to inspire positivity in turbulent times: “[SS’20] is very focused around the fight for love. It is an energetic story about maintaining love while pushing against the winds of political darkness.” The designer also teamed up with Danish football brand Hummel to add a line of colourful sportswear pieces to the collection. Hummel will sponsor the immigrant, asylum seeker, and refugee players who make up the Rooklyn International Football Association (RIFA) of Brooklyn – an actionable partnership which directly impacts and supports an organisation close to his heart proving Chavarria's commentary is not all talk.
By offering collaboration pieces alongside his core collection Chavarria can also broaden his price points making the brand more inclusive. Seasonal lines target luxury consumers, with pieces priced between USD$220 and USD$450 while the label’s collaboration pieces tend to dip below a more accessible USD$150.
“I think everyone who follows the brand should be able to afford something. Through our collaborations, we have been able to offer lower priced styles which merchandise well alongside our higher priced core collection,” he says of the pieces found in Dover Street Market and Barneys. Infusing his beliefs into every inch of the label, from design to collaborations, and even to price points, it is clear that Chavarria is building a luxury brand with genuine social relevance at its core instead of exclusivity, a clever strategy that speaks to the majority. “Our clothes are for everyone to wear.” he finishes, simply.