Willy Chavarría’s fall collection was originally going to be presented exclusively through a short film. “The whole story is about love, protection and our need to protect each other,” he said at his Greenpoint studio a few days before the show. “It was hard for me to think about clothes because there are so many terrible things happening in the world,” he said. “I felt like the best way to tell this story was through an intimate film where you can see people, feel their emotions and tell a story that reflects how we feel in the moment.”
Luckily, Chavarría decided he needed to stage a runway presentation after all. The film, titled Safe from Harm, opened the show, playing on a screen behind a long table covered in a white lace tablecloth and filled with altar and votive candles like an offering. Directed by Chavarría, it began with the model Paloma Elsesser walking down a hallway and entering a room where she embraces a man, played by Chachi, a friend, muse, and ever-present model in Chavarría’s shows. In quick succession there were scenes involving weightlifting, split screens and church. At the end the film evolved into something resembling the best parts of every Janet Jackson video.
Then the real show started. For fall, Chavarría expanded his sartorial vocabulary, borrowing from the particular glamour of the 1980s British upper crust, particularly through his use of luxe plaid and houndstooth wools which he contrasted with leather jackets and biker details. A star of the lineup was the houndstooth turtleneck shirt with the Chavarría logo embroidered at the chest, worn tucked into matching pleated trousers and topped with a leather take on a track jacket with a gold zipper and a tiny gold cross as a zipper pull. Or the way he executed his signature jacket with an extra-wide shoulder—this time in the softest beige wool—worn with a houndstooth pussy bow blouse whose ties extended over the jacket’s oversized pointed lapels dramatically to hit mid-thigh. Its model carried an extra-large clutch/document portfolio, part of a small collection of bags Chavarría is introducing this season. It was all very Executive Realness.
A group of extra-large cable knit sweaters also added a dose of élan. A model wore an extra-long—it reached his knees—V-neck cable knit sweater over a white button down shirt with an exaggerated collar and a pair of wide-legged khakis. To further drive the message across, there was a second sweater draped across his shoulders. Another model was styled classically, with a black cotton button down shirt tucked into dark wash jeans. He carried a structured shoulder bag on one shoulder, and wore a navy cable knit sweater tied just so around his neck. There was a certain perverseness in the way it captured the specific codes of prep dressing; something Chavarría experimented with last season. (You may have seen it on Billie Eilish at the Golden Globes.)
Elsewhere, there were plenty of cool, wearable pieces; evidence of Chavarría’s recent foray into global wholesale. “It kind of changes the way the collection is designed, but it’s just a more grown up version of what it was eight years ago or whatever,” he said. “I’m still doing our classic silhouettes, but also being conscious of what can be more appealing to people beyond my small customer base.” Dilone’s sleek gray suit worn with an oversized overcoat was as classic tailoring as ever; also classic were the track suits, and the white button down shirts with subtle stripes in shades of blue or burgundy. Simple pieces to wear again and again.
As the models reached the end of the runway, they arranged themselves behind the table with the candles, like an updated version of The Last Supper, with Chavarría himself taking the final position in the middle after the customary bow. After the applause died down and the models exited the runway, there was a sudden silence, and everyone remained in their seats, as if expecting an encore. Then, a second round of rapturous applause erupted. The reign of Willy Chavarría is really just getting started.