Willy Chavarria Talks National Design Award Winner, Catholicism, Discipline – WWD


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As the recipient of this year’s Cooper Hewitt National Design Award for Fashion Design, Willy Chavarria continues to garner honors.

Although Cooper Hewitt’s Smithsonian Design Museum officially announced the winners last week, it sounded a little cheesy when he was told a short time ago. But 23 years after he first moved to New York, Chavarria is being awarded one of the most interdisciplinary and highly competitive titles, not entirely for his design.

Chavarria spoke about being in the same company as other winners like Nader Tehrani for Design Visionary; Rural Studio for Architecture/Interior Design, and Wedew by David Hertz for Climate Action. Chavarria said, “Something like this is truly an incredible gift. It’s not just about comparing yourself to other people in fashion. It’s all about comparing yourself to other people trying to be the best at their game. All these people do such great work and I really know what it takes to do great work. It is a great honor to be in the same company.

Through his work, Chavarria aims to influence the fashion industry on many other levels, beyond the aesthetics and functionality of clothing. “Really, my goal is to raise people who come from people like me, who weren’t designed this way,” he said, adding that he hopes the culture and name will point to others, including children. ”, “They have a great opportunity to do what they really want to do, be it fashion or anything else. Whenever younger generations can see someone like me succeeding, it uplifts people.

The California native switched shores in 1999 to work with Ralph Lauren. Chavarria didn’t launch his own label until 2015. Since then, it has been highlighted by statements related to racial, economic and sexual identity. He also serves as Senior Vice President of Design at Calvin Klein.

His next runway show is scheduled for Thursday, and Chavarria said last week that he sat in a pile of shoes, sorting through airplane models to see if there were enough sizes to fit. Known for his holistic approach to fashion, Chavarria knows the trend of inclusion. He says he’s happy to stay true to his work, build a following and stay in business without any mistakes. “That’s definitely an accomplishment just for me,” he said.

His fellow NDA honorees are Emily Adams Bode for Emerging Designer; Georgia Lupi for Communication Design; Felecia Davis for Digital Design; Kunkuye Design Initiative for landscape architecture, and CW&T for product design. “I understand the seriousness of this award and that’s why it’s so deeply personal. In my conversation with Cooper Hewitt, I understand that they recognize not just my skill or ability as a designer, but the reason I design and the impact my work has on people.

Describing his style as “an elegant interpretation of cultural influences”, Chavarria says much of his influence comes from the street, with his final collections inspired by his own culture, upbringing, family and circle of friends. “I’ve always been fascinated by subcultures, even ones I had no connection with,” he says.

Chavarria says it was important to have people in his life who nurtured what he felt and thought about himself as a child, still allowing himself to question it every day. “Even as a little boy he felt different.” There were people in his circle who recognized and respected that. My parents, to some extent, my mother especially, understood this and respected it.

Chavarria, who grew up in a family of farm workers in California’s San Joaquin County, watched as his relatives raised crops and his grandfather opened a small-town grocery store. “I learned without question from my parents and family that work is the path to success. My idea of ​​success became very different from my family’s, but seeing their hard work taught me discipline.”

While some may want to write off the design as a gift, there is good elbow grease.

“Discipline is key. They may be very successful and not very talented, but I can look around to see people with incredible levels of self-discipline and drive. Part of my drive to show that I can make something of myself has always been to be honest. I come from a very loving family. , but I wanted to show them that I could be something. The discipline I learned probably came from the church and my Catholic upbringing,” he said. “As I’ve grown, my relationship with the church has improved. I go to Mass several times a year. Learning that repetition of prayer and that repetition of discipline. I think that’s what helped me stick with a plan.

He recently visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where three of his designs are on display, and was amazed and inspired to hear people discuss his work and how they identify with it culturally. But for now, he’s focused on his upcoming New York Fashion Week show, not celebrating Cooper’s life. “Now it’s all work and sleep and water and vitamins. I celebrate by closing my eyes and getting a good night’s sleep,” he said.


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