Willy Chavarria Reacts to His First ELLE Cover

Fashion & Style

“A dream come true,” Willy Chavarria says of seeing his work on one of the covers of ELLE’s Spring Fashion Issue. The New York-based designer provided a look for cover star Vittoria Ceretti, namely, a white linen suit from his spring 2024 collection. He calls the motif “one of my favorite things of all time, whether it’s John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever or Yohji Yamamoto in the ’80s. I just love a white suit. I love that today it can be worn any time of year. It’s not a seasonal thing. It’s fresh. It’s sexy. It feels youthful. It feels a little rebellious, in a way.”

The look opened his spring 2024 runway show, which took a tailored approach to casual dress. “What I love about the collection,” he says, “is it further solidifies this concept I have of: a tracksuit can be eveningwear.” (Amen.)

For our March issue, the supermodel is styled in simply a blazer, without a shirt underneath—just a simple Araks underwear set. “I feel like that is the modern way to wear a suit,” Chavarria notes. “It has a new casual sensibility to it. In most of the styling I do, the suits are worn with no shirt underneath or just an easy ribbed tank, something very, very basic, so that there’s room to flow and room to breathe, especially in the springtime.”

a brunette woman wearing a white blazer and red rosette

Mario Sorrenti

Ceretti in Willy Chavarria.

“It’s a fit that accommodates both a male and female form,” adds Chavarria, whose label often gets filed under menswear but has all-gender appeal (he’s dressed Reneé Rapp and Venus Williams, among many other women.) “When I design or sketch, I don’t really consider gender,” he says. “I just do the looks and the pieces, and then when the clothes come in, just kind of style them on whomever. And then the clothes take on the gender while they’re being worn. I do have more of a female-presenting customer base I’ve grown over the last few seasons.”

The exaggerated silk faille rose, which he started incorporating for the fall 2023 season, “is such a symbol of life and a symbol of my culture,” he notes, referring to his Mexican-American roots. It’s also become a symbol of his brand, so much so that the made-in-New York accoutrement is now available to buy on its own. (For fall 2024, he incorporated the motif into a houndstooth print.)

a man wearing glasses

Paul Yem

Designer Willy Chavarria.

Seeing his work on Ceretti was a bona fide moment. “When somebody of that stature or somebody with that large of a following wears the brand, it’s very special for me, and it’s very special for my brand because the message that we’re putting out there is something that I really want more and more people to connect with. And when someone like her connects with the message, I think it just means more. For the world, and for what we’re doing in fashion, which is to just spread a message of human dignity and human respect.”

a person wearing a white dress and a red hat

SELWYN TUNGOL

The cover look on Chavarria’s spring 2024 runway.

That message resonates particularly strongly in our current, TikTok trend-buffeted fashion landscape. “I honestly think that we have had it up to here with product being pushed on us, and especially being pushed a certain look that we need to subscribe to,” Chavarria says. “One thing that I’m very conscious of in the way that I design and style is making sure that we tell the stories through different characters; so that when you see a look, you see a character, and you also see the pieces as individual pieces that you might relate to, [so you can] put together your own character.

“I want people to say, ‘Oh, I love that jacket. That’s a piece that could really work with my personality or my lifestyle.’ And I think that fashion right now is more about individuality and self-expression in a more personal way. We are hopefully at a moment where we can build our own identities with what we wear.”

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