Willy Chavarria: Designer, Activist and Now, Auteur

“Hideous,” said Willy Chavarria, talking about the fashion business, celebrity entitlement, late-stage capitalism, his current state of mind. It was a Thursday morning at a workroom in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, and the designer was putting last-minute touches on his fall 2024 collection of the men’s wear that, in recent years, has been taken up by a number of people who do not identify as men.

“It’s still men’s wear, honey,” he said.

Hideous are the demands a best-selling pop star made before agreeing to attend Mr. Chavarria’s show on Friday and a lavish dinner party at Jean’s that will follow. Hideous are the industry trade groups that dole out awards to minority designers while withholding the financing necessary to build a sustainable long-term business. Hideous, too, is an aging and increasingly out-of-touch industry elite in America that, in Mr. Chavarria’s words “is clearly failing and flailing.”

It was all insupportably hideous for roughly two minutes. Then the mercurial Mr. Chavarria, 56, experienced a sudden mood shift. “Even if I think I’m over the whole thing,” he said, “I still feel the passion.”

To understand what a relief that is to hear, it helps to know that Mr. Chavarria is among the more abundantly gifted (and, in recent years, decorated) talents in American fashion; that in his shows and his workroom he has long championed a diversity typically deployed at major labels in a largely performative and token manner; and that for his latest collection of super-slick and surprisingly commercial suits and trousers the inspiration was apparently a “a mash-up of Claude Montana ’80s vibes, British tweeds, trousers with snatched waists, lots of Mexican 1930s tailoring and some prairie feeling.”

The cuts are generally leaner than in recent years because, as Mr. Chavarria said, “everybody is now doing my oversize trousers.”

Oh, and the designer made a movie.

Filmed over 10 days in a convent in the Ridgewood neighborhood of Queens in lavish, saturated color, “Safe From Harm” will open the Chavarria show on Friday evening — preceding what will otherwise be a traditional runway presentation of 36 looks, arranged by the superstar stylist Carlos Nazario and worn by live models.

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