Willy Chavarria talks about winning the National Award for Design, Catholicism and Discipline – WWD


As the recipient of this year’s Cooper Hewitt National Design Award for Fashion Design, Willy Chavarria is still processing that honor.

Although the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum publicly revealed the winners last week, it looked a little stunned, despite it being said a short time ago. But 23 years after first moving to New York, Chavarria is being hailed with one of the most coveted titles in the interdisciplinary and highly competitive world of design, not just fashion design.

Chavarria said he is in the same company as other winners such as 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 really just an amazing gift. It’s not just a comparison with other people in fashion. It’s a comparison to other people, all of whom are really trying to be the best at their game. All of these people are doing a great job and, of course, I know what great work entails. It is quite an honor to be in the same company.

With her own work, Chavarria aims to have an impact beyond the fashion industry to inspire on many other levels beyond the beauty of clothes and how they are made. “I’m really aiming to uplift people, who maybe come from a background like mine and haven’t really carved out that path for them,” he said, adding that he hopes his background culture and name will signal to others, including children. , “that there is a great possibility for them to do something that they really want to do, be it fashion or something else. Whenever younger generations are able to see someone like me succeed, it just uplifts people.

The Californian changed coast in 1999 to work with Ralph Lauren. Chavarria didn’t launch his own label until 2015. Since then, he’s made a name for himself with statements related to racial, economic, and sexual identity. He is also Senior Vice President of Design at Calvin Klein.

With his next show scheduled for Thursday, as he spoke last week, Chavarria said he was sitting in a pile of shoes, sorting through them to see if there were enough sizes to fit the models of track. Known for her holistic approach to fashion, Chavarria is aware of the trend towards inclusivity. He said he was just happy that he was able to stay true to his work without compromise, to have followers and to stay in business. “That alone for me is a sure hit,” he said.

Her other NDA winners include Emily Adams Bode for Emerging Designer; Giorgia Lupi for communication design; Felecia Davis for digital design; Kounkuey Design Initiative for landscape architecture and CW&T for product design. “I recognize the seriousness of this award and that is why it is so deeply personal. Through my conversations with Cooper Hewitt, I understand that they not only recognize my talent or skills as a designer, but also the reason I create and the impact my work has on people.

Describing her style as “an elegant take on cultural influence”, Chavarria said much of that influence came from the streets, with her latest collections having been inspired by her own culture, upbringing, family and circle. of friends. “I’ve always been passionate about subcultures, even ones I’m not completely connected to,” he said.

Admitting that he still questions himself on a daily basis, Chavarria said it was beneficial to have people in his life as a child who nurtured what he thought or felt about himself and his art. Having “even felt different as a little kid,” there were people around him who recognized and respected that. My parents, to some extent, my mother in particular, recognized this and respected it.

Growing up in a farm-working family in California’s San Joaquin County, Chavarria said her relatives did much of the crop picking and her grandfather opened a small-town grocery store later in life. . “Without a doubt, I learned from my parents and family that hard work is the path to success. My idea of ​​success became very different from my family’s, but just seeing their hard work absolutely taught me discipline.

While some are inclined to view the design as a giveaway, there’s a lot of elbow grease involved.

“Discipline is the key. I can look around to see successful people who may not be very talented, but they have incredible levels of self-discipline and drive. Part of my motivation has always been to be honest, to show that I could do something on my own. I came from a family that I loved very much, but I wanted to show them that I could really be something. The discipline I learned probably also came from the church and my disciplined Catholic upbringing,” he said. “As I’ve grown, my relationship with the church has evolved, that’s for sure. I go to mass several times a year. I think having that prayer rehearsal and learning that rehearsal discipline is something that has helped my ability to stick to a plan.

Having recently visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where three of his creations are on display, he was amazed and moved to hear people discuss his work and how they identified with it culturally. For now, though, he’s focused on his upcoming New York Fashion Week show, not celebrating his honor Cooper Hewitt. “Right now it’s all about work, sleep, water and vitamins. I will celebrate by closing my eyes and sleeping very well thinking about it,” he said.

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