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Saturday, October 1, 2022

Willy Chavarria Brings the Issue Before the Church

People who are uncomfortable with ambiguity should not pursue careers in the fashion industry. Consider the gorgeous, if occasionally lugubrious, Willy Chavarria show that took place on Wednesday in Manhattan at Marble Collegiate Church, the home pulpit of President Richard M. Nixon’s favourite clergyman, Norman Vincent Peale, the self-help pundit who wrote “The Power of Positive Thinking.” Willy Chavarria performed at the church. In addition to being uplifting and corny, exhortatory as a sermon and yet quietly persuading, the concert started so late that attendees began shifting in their seats as if they were in a church during a sermon.

Then, in a honeyed tenor, the singer Dorian Wood launched Mr. Chavarria’s spring 2023 collection, “Please Rise,” with a Spanish-language song about bridging the metaphorical and real boundaries that separate us, and the designer brought us to church. The collection was titled “Please Rise.” The collection was inspired by clerical garments such as cassocks, surplices, and priestly capelets. Additionally, the collection featured Chavarria’s signature colossal proportions, boxy silhouettes, and subtly coded references to unassimilated Latin subcultures. This was Chavarria’s way of bridging what he calls “the divisions in our world.”

Huge pleated pants were worn underneath close-fitting double-breasted jackets, with the chevron lapels of the jackets zoot-suiting out past the shoulder line. There were T-shirts stretched to knee length and inner allusions to the geographies of Mr. Chavarria’s California boyhood in the shape of place names like Sacramento, San Jose, and Fresno spelt backward over sleeved sports jerseys. In addition, there were T-shirts that reached to knee length. Huge flowers made of satin were pinned to the wearer’s waistbands and collars in what, considering Mr. Chavarria’s penchant for outsiders, very likely may have been a reference to the prison tattoos that are common in the United States.

Since Miguel Adrover departed New York, the city has not seen a designer whose work is as emotionally engaging and imaginative, as classically beautiful, and as uncompromising in its politics as Mr. Chavarria’s work. This city and nation were left behind by Mr. Adrover when he notably became disillusioned with the fashion industry. He moved to Spain and returned to his hometown on the island of Majorca. Mr. Chavarria, age 55, has already taken his fair share of the blows that only a challenging industry can dish out, so it would seem that he is in it for the long haul.

Because Mr. Chavarria has a vital voice and vision, it is necessary that the two maintain a thread of continuity with one another. In addition to placing an emphasis on aesthetic and beauty values that are derived less from European civilizations and more from those of Mexico and Central America, he celebrates hybrid identities in all of its ambiguities. Mr. Chavarria was reared as a member of the working class in the Central Valley of California, which is known for its abundant agricultural resources. He was born to Irish American and Mexican parents. Today, he has the position of senior vice president at Calvin Klein, which makes him one of the highest-paid and, without a doubt, the most prominent Latino designers working in the industry.

In an interview conducted by Vogue many years after Mr. Adrover had retired from the fashion industry, he said that his primary purpose in the industry had always been to provide a voice to the underdog. In an interview with the publication, he said, “For me, it was incredibly crucial to bring up individuals who had never been represented before on a catwalk.” It took an excessively long time before Mr. Adrover’s successor materialised; at times, it even gave the impression that the individual who could combine Mr. Adrover’s enormous abilities and firmly held views did not even exist.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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