Take Me To Church. Willy Chavarria SS23

Willy Chavarria took us to church (the Marble Collegiate Church in New York, to be precise) for a show that mixed his signature larger-than-life silhouettes with exquisite tailoring. It opened with a beautiful song performed a cappella in Spanish by Dorian Wood about the way borders keep us separated, which could be read literally but Chavarria meant it more metaphorically. “The song is about the division in our world,” he explained backstage afterward. “If you noticed in the show, the actors were divided by ethnicity, and that was not only to represent the division that we are experiencing, but to show the solidarity within the culture. To show the strength of people when they’re unified.” First, a group of men wearing extra-long T-shirts and Dickies walked out and placed bunches of roses on the altar. The first look was a navy tailored jacket with strong, wide shoulder pads that were situated ever so slightly beyond the natural line of the body, which worked to create a great amount of tension against the extra-long lapels that extended past the top of the torso. Its intersecting lines alluded to the Chi Ro symbol, also called a Christogram. The model, who wore a collared shirt and pleated wide-leg trousers as well, carried a cross at the center of his chest with one hand.

Chavarria, who recently won the National Design Award for Fashion Design, has always favored volume and extra-large silhouettes as a way to “reclaim [the] space that has been taken” from people of color, but there was a new level of softness and sensuality woven through his collection this time around. Though it was always played against more traditionally American masculine elements like varsity logo T-shirts and football jerseys, which he turned into short, princess-sleeve tops and layered over short-sleeve button-down shirts and paired with a skirt. Men wearing robes and dresses has been normalized on menswear runways, but it was interesting to see how, in the context of a church, the silhouettes completely changed meaning and were imbued with a sensibility that hinted at both a uniform as well as tradition. “The first piece I did [for the collection] I called the altar-boy cape, and I just had it on a mannequin in my studio for a long time as the rest of the collection came about, so it’s funny that the collection became as spiritually tied as it ended up being,” said the designer. The capes were worn by both male and female models who came out in a group halfway through the show. The absolute star of the show was a group of gorgeous fine-tailored pieces, like the slightly asymmetrical double-breasted silk tuxedo jacket with a giant fabric rose on the left shoulder, worn with fluid satin trousers. The rose also appeared on red silk taffeta trousers, complete with a ball gown–esque train and paired with a black leather tank, and again on a pair of extra-wide black satin trousers and matching button-down shirt, worn open at the chest and falling off the shoulders. “I felt like this was a show about good and evil,” the designer added. “Coming from a religious background, I’ve always been a firm believer that good out-wins evil, [but] I felt like there’s almost a loss of God right now in the world.” If it’s true that God is love and beauty, then this fashion show took us a little closer to heaven.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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