Willy Chavarria: The Mexican-American Designer Who Swept the Men’s Fashion Awards in 2023

The most relevant creator with Mexican roots today is Willy Chavarria, who was honored as Designer of the Year at the prestigious CFDA Fashion Awards 2023 and the Latin American Fashion Awards.

The international press has praised Chavarría as a prominent figure in the world of men’s fashion, who has known how to use his designs as a novel tool to promote inclusion and social justice. He presents himself on his website as someone who takes a strong stand for human rights and who partners with organizations, brands, and charities to support the communities close to his heart.

Chavarría likes to be an ambassador for the Chicano community in the United States but is careful not to politicize his work as a designer. “I think there are many different approaches to activism and I celebrate them all. I go to marches and do things that are typically political, but when it comes to my work I like to take a more elegant approach in the way I celebrate humanity.”, he told Another Magazine.

Born in the San Joaquin Valley, California, to an Irish mother and Mexican father, Chavarría grew up in a modest community of immigrant farmers far removed from the catwalks of New York.

His interest in studying led him to seek new horizons and at the age of 20, he attended the Academy of Art at the University of San Francisco while working part-time in the shipping department for the Joe Boxer firm. One of his supervisors noticed that Willy spent part of his time drawing sketches and that allowed him to do an internship with Canadian designer Nicholas Graham. His excellent performance earned him a position as a designer in the company.

Chavarría has commented that his metamorphosis from graphic designer to fashion designer occurred gradually, due to the contact he had during those formative years with clubs and rave culture. Those outings in the San Francisco nightlife motivated him to make extravagant clothes for himself and his friends.

By 1999 he was working with Ralph Lauren in New York as part of the team that developed a line of clothing for cyclists, before joining American Eagle Outfitters as design director.

He started in the world of entrepreneurship in 2010 when he opened a men’s clothing store with his partner David Ramírez. In 2015 he already felt mature enough to launch his brand, which has been applauded by critics for its disruptive collections.

Currently, he works as senior vice president of design at Calvin Klein, a position that makes him one of the best-positioned Latinos in the American fashion industry.

Chavarría has been praised for taking firm steps toward the “democratization” of fashion. He is distinguished by doing castings in iconic places in Manhattan where he looks for attractive models represented by prestigious agencies and also for unconventional beauties of ordinary men such as delivery drivers and workers. He assures that you have to go out and be aware of the beauty that surrounds you because the most beautiful people are not always the ones you are used to seeing in magazines.

“Everything I do automatically includes part of my Latin heritage.” and part of everything that has inspired me throughout my life. I’m not just a Latino designer, I’m a designer. I know that there are not many Latin designers who reach my level, so I feel happy to be one, and I feel happy to represent the Latin community,” he said in a video published by ELLE magazine.

Many of his models would never have thought to be beautiful until Chavarría selected them to wear his designs. The creator told the New York Times that the world prevents us from being beautiful in many ways. “There is a damaging loss of psychic and even physical territory if the culture never offers you any confirmation of your type of beauty.”

He insists that inspiration emerges from anything. It can be a cigarette butt, turbulent social times, and also your need to search for true beauty in this world. That is why in their collections there are pieces that seem destroyed and others that are beautifully impeccable.

Although he is internationally recognized as a menswear designer, Chavarría says he never thinks about gender when designing a piece. “ My brand is not just for people of color and queer people, it is for everyone. Regardless of whether it is a dress or a suit, we see everything as a collection, and then we include the models in the collection, regardless of whether they are men or women.”

Regarding his personal life, Chavarría has stated that he prefers a quiet and homely life, away from the glamor of fashion. Recharge his energy with her husband David Ramírez and she loves visiting her parents to pamper them, cook, and eat as a family.

In an interview with Vogue México, Chavarría said: Actually, I design clothes to make us feel beautiful, like we are; and so that we think and feel differently – and better – to others.

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