Brooklyn and fashion moment might have historically sounded like an oxymoron, but that’s exactly what we witnessed at a great Willy Chavarria show near the banks of the East River on Friday night.
Entitled ‘Safe From Harm’, the collection contained all that is great about Chavarria, sophisticated and surprising tailoring; Latin exuberance; dynamic designs; animated inclusiveness and a sense of bold bravura that sets the pulses racing.
All that, and a beautifully inclusive cast that starred in this show and in an intense film that opened the show. Projected onto a screen hung above a long candle lit table with hundreds of votive candles, featuring Wily as a modern-day saint, wearing a bleeding heart T-shirt.
On each seat, a plastic card with an image of the Virgin Mary and a message from the designer: “In our many tribes, we are ultimately but one. One family living one house. The reverberations between the walls. The steps and muffled voices through ceilings and floors.”
Members of those tribes starred in his gritty short movie, from model Dilone to Paloma Elsesser, who in a double-header walked later in the evening in Tommy Hilfiger’s show.
Though he called for love, the actual movie featured elements of gang culture, referencing one of the collection’s inspiration, ‘Griselda’, Sofia Vergara’s hit Netflix TV series about a female Colombia cartel leader who rampages through Miami. In Willy’s movie, a gang member in underwear is aided as he lifts weights before standing up and French kissing another guy. A short film which ends with the many characters screaming at mirrors and walls and pounding floors.
Which is when the live cast appeared, a marvelously heterogenic array – ranging across Central and South America – in a super wardrobe and a silhouette slimmed down from recent seasons. As Wily launched his wholesale business model and his first women’s wear collection. And Chavarria starts retailing in the likes of Bergdorf Goodman, Saks, Maxfield, Dover Street Market and Selfridges.
Opening with some bold suits, cut with wide pagoda shoulders and lapels so pointy the reach about the shoulder line. He showed cocoon-shaped leather hustler jackets, western blazers and some great three-pocket Saharienne leather looks, often paired with cowboy hats. He cut giant multi-pleat pants, a style that one sees young teenagers in New York already copying – since Chavarria’s influence seems so immediate. For women, leather-biker-jacket-meets-cocktail looks and bat wing blazers all of which looked great.
Post-show, the designer stood on a chair backstage and calmed the cheering with a quiet speech. “Thank you for being part of this incredible uplifting piece of art. We are doing this for each other and it is with moments like this that we actually create change. I love you and I am so grateful,” he said crossing his hands over his heart.
In effect, Chavarria is the fashion champion of BIPOC, the new acronym meaning Black, indigenous and other people of color. After a long apprentice working for over a decade at the likes of Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, Chavarria has suddenly exploded onto the New York scene as a design leader. Supremely self-confident, he was his own final model, before joining his cast at the candle-laden table in a Last Supper setting that won deafening cheers.
This proud son of Mexican immigrant farm workers has truly arrived. This is Chavarria’s moment.
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