Willy Chavarria puts family first

The designer's grounded approach extends to more than just fashion – the people he surrounds himself with are integral to the way he works. Meet the New Yorker's chosen clan.

Willy Chavarria’s family is what grounds him. The New York designer’s eponymous label – launched in 2015 – centres around exactly that: the network of outsiders he’s fostered, their individual beauty and collective strength: They remind me who I am and where I come from,” says the 2023 CFDA American Menswear Designer of the Year.

Willy Chavarria, the label, foregrounds the designer’s Mexican-American heritage, Latinidad culture and lexicon he’s built working at established American brands such as Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, where he currently holds the title of Senior Vice President of Menswear Design. Establishing momentum outside of the fashion realm isn’t easy, but Willy has done so with ease: Kendrick Lamar, Tracee Ellis Ross and Billie Eilish have all gravitated towards the label.

“[Creating a family environment] on every project is essential to delivering sincere and impactful work,” the 56-year-old tells us. Many of the broad Willy fam’ members have created new families and discovered new lives outside the ones they were raised with.”

Sartorially speaking, the brand is distinctive for its visual language of roomy tailoring, dramatic silhouettes, regal fabrics and souped-up sportswear. The beauty is in the details: an extra-long lapel on a blazer, a pussy-bow blouse with ties that hang to the knee, a gold coin ring embossed with a W”, a track jacket with a gold cross zipper.

While these might read like subtleties, collections born under Willy’s watch are pure alchemy, as demonstrated by the brand’s runway shows which have been hosted everywhere from a non-denominational church (SS23) and a barbershop (SS22) to The Eagle, an NYC gay bar (SS18) popular with leather-clad locals.

The brand’s most recent NYFW show, Safe From Harm, took place in a vast warehouse in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, which is also home to its design studio, and was arguably the biggest talking point of the AW24 season.

Blending upper-crust 80s British glam and Claude Montana references with Chavarria’s signature oversized silhouettes and twisted tailoring, the show was preceded by a short, self-directed film. Starring friends and muses of the label, including models Paloma Elsesser, Dilone and Kai-Isaiah Jamal, it flitted between an intimate apartment space, a steamy weightlifting room and a dance-filled church. The effect was one of togetherness, love and protection – all qualities that are paramount within Willy’s family-oriented world.

Letting others know that you can be depended on and trusted is incredibly valuable,” he says. “[There’s an] understanding that we have a deep, spiritual bond that makes it necessary for us to look out for one another, allowing ourselves to open up and love.

My family grounds me,” Willy Chavarria continues. They also teach me unconditional love, a trait I admire and look to achieve [towards] those around me. We are united in telling a story of strength and grace.”


Willy says: This is a casting board [created] with my friend Dorian Ulises López Macías’ photos”. As told to Vogue Mexico last year, I’ve worked with him on a few projects and feel like he has a very similar approach to beauty and how to capture it”


Willy says: This one is a bag sample with a photo of Paloma Elsesser in Willy underwear by Ricky Alvarez.” The Safe From Harm film opens with the American model entering a room and hugging a man


Willy says: “[I stay] spiritually informed with Be Here Now and a Saint Willy candle.” We presume he means the 1971 book on yoga and meditation, rather than the bloated and much-ma- ligned third Oasis album


Willy says: Here’s a coat and hat waiting to be worn.” Willy first started incorporating oversized roses into his work during AW23, telling Elle that they’re such a symbol of life and a symbol of my culture.” Roses have since become a recognisable trademark of the brand


Willy says: This is my leather workshop in the back”. The designer famously presented his SS18 collection, Cruising, at legendary New York leather bar The Eagle


Willy says: hair clipping hanging above The Cause and Treatment of Male Prostitution”


Willy says: I work with the people I love and ad- mire to tell the story … [it’s] one of life’s great joys”. As he told Vogue last year, Almost all of the cast are friends and family type people”


Willy says: This shows my process of constant sketching and ideation”. As told to WWD in February, Willy is expanding his jewellery offering, with pieces that are Lacroix but a little more Catholic”

HAIR Joey George MAKEUP Marco Castro

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