Who Decides War and Willy Chavarria prove their streetwear tendencies have a grown-up side too
On the last day of NYFW, Who Decides War and Willy Chavarria caused a stir with collections that showed promise of evolution.
Who Decides War
For its seventh collection entitled 'Politics As Usual', Who Decides War said in show notes that the collection was an ode to New York City, referring to its music, diversity, and sense of style. Judging by the crowd of cool downtown peeps (Heron Preston, Jim Jones and Juelz Santana of The Diplomats, June Ambrose, Babyface Ray, Joey Bada$$, Jay Critch, and Dave East, among others) representing those genres and the clothes that followed, Everard Best aka Ev Bravado and Tela D’Amore—the couple behind the label whose pedigree includes collaborating with the late Virgil Abloh—achieved that mission.
Post-show at the Angel Orensanz Foundation—whose doorsteps were packed with a traffic-stopping crowd that had gathered in hopes of attending—the designers explained it was also about expanding those genres even more.
“We didn’t want a target market. As creatives of color, it was hard to pigeonhole ourselves or be pigeonholed into one idea that limited the market or age range. It was a nod to everything we have been doing to expand our offering in a more sophisticated direction so that more people can buy into it. There is a piece for everyone and everybody,” D’Amore told FashionNetwork.com backstage. Indeed, even the couple’s 4-year-old child, who took the final bow with them, was wearing some custom Who Decides War jeans.
According to Best, it was about evolving the codes, most prominently the stained-glass window motif, embroidery, and shredding, to imagine in a new way. “This season, we wanted to take the stained glass away from the embroidery and use it as a symbol for the brand. It can still be Who Decides War without the stitch count and imaging.”
To that end, the duo got creative in interpreting the shape. It appeared as cutouts on layered looks, patches on a parka or leather ball skirt, and even flap-like cuts on a sweater tunic. When it was stitched, it was also fashioned onto more tailored pieces, such as a classic white wool men’s overcoat or a pullover puffer shirt. Dissected, there were plenty of pieces for a smart wardrobe when the occasion arose; button-front shirts, pinstripe suiting, a yummy lavender sweater and school skirt, and a leather crop jacket ensemble, for example.
This isn’t to say the brand's core motifs were absent; there was plenty to love there. This time, shredding and embroidery joined with painting techniques and tied and knotting cording details that lay over several garments. The collective spirit was alive and kicking as the brand also collaborated with several brands such as Adidas on tricked-out Superstars, goth-influenced JakisChrist, an Italian outwear brand ADD, who helped create the pullover sweatshirt-style puffers (possibly this generation’s Mother Karen’s Powder Jacket?) that could quickly become the next most coveted brand for the label.
Showing in the beautifully decrepit synagogue took on a special meaning for the duo.
“The space is all-encompassing; even though it’s a synagogue, it still has the characteristics of a cathedral which our brand is based on,” offered Best. “It's so New York. Just off the side of the road, you come in, and it’s this beautiful space. Plus, Alexander McQueen showed his first show in New York City here,” added D’Amore. Fittingly, the new duo is creating the same fervent buzz as the late British design legend.
Following the downtown happening, the attention shifted uptown to Willy Chavarria’s runway show which took place within the hallowed halls of the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. Chavarria loves a storied location, but this place has special meaning for the designer whose day job is senior vice president, design, Calvin Klein North America and global essentials apparel men’s. He is the recipient of the Copper-Hewitt 2022 National Design Award for Fashion. This tidbit was explained over a loudspeaker as a museum representative introduced the evening’s agenda. (Note to designers, a show intro goes a long way).
As guests took their seats, they enjoyed a string quartet that would provide the music for multi-disciplinary artist Dorian Wood's diva performance as the models took to the runway. The stately location was also fitting for the mood Chavarria was trying to convey, indicated one way by the name of the collection 'Kangaroo' borrowed from a This Mortal Coil song.
“It tapped the mood of the climate today, which is very serious,” he said post-show, speaking to FashionNetwork.com, and referring to the mournfully melodic love song. “There is so much frivolousness going on, but the world is a very serious place. I wanted to do something serious and be taken more seriously,” he continued.
Partially, it was a business move to expand the offerings but also a reflection of his maturity as a designer. “I don’t want to be a stagnate designer, and I am becoming more skilled; I’m now working with an atelier.”
This maturity was evidenced in the solemn yet stirring collection that dressed up the Chavarria customer in looks mainly befitting black tie occasions.
To wit, there were monastic robes in velvet, pussy bow sheer chiffon shirts, and high-waisted pants with built-in cummerbunds, for example. A leaner silhouette was explored in a double-breasted tuxedo coat, pants that almost qualified as skinny, and a nipped waist jacket worn by a female model. Puff sleeve blouses, among the items, remarked as Yves Saint Laurent inspired, were the most typically feminine proposition to date. It appeared that male-facing and female-facing models were swapping roles, each donning garments that were intended for the opposite sex initially. Chavarria sees the lines as blurred.
“It’s a singular collection, not men’s or women's. Designing gender specific may be archaic too,” he added.
But it’s not archaic regarding figure shapes and sizing, but the designer has that covered.
“I do levels of production; this is the highest tier of made-to-order.”
However, it was all black except for a touch of white on a blouse, floral lapel décor, and neck scarves, giving it a monastic feel.
“The youth and us, too, in this world today have things come at us over and over. So, this is about not waiting for something wonderful to happen at the end of the tunnel but appreciating the exact moment and making it the most beautiful and elegant we can.”
It took some reflecting for Chavarria to arrive at the all-black lineup.
“There was color in the collection, but I pulled it out because there is so much noise in fashion that I needed to clear the slate. Especially younger American designer brands that tend to be a bit messier; there is a messiness that is part of American fashion today that I don’t want to be associated with,” he conceded.
No argument there; Chavarria’s clear and clean message should be a beacon for New York fashion.
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