Last season, queer, Chicano designer Willy Chavarria transformed a midtown leather bar into a brooding, incense-and-flower-filled meditation on cruising. It was beautiful, sensual, and alluring, which made this season’s show all the more shocking. Gone were the palo santo sticks and decorative rosaries. Instead, Chavarria transformed a massive studio space at Pier59 Studios into a haunting, tearful runway show for his “BELIEVERS” collection that reflected the reality of the Chicano community under Trump’s America.
In other words, things got dark very quickly. There was no room for cheery and phony feelings. As Chavarria’s diverse cast stomped down the runway while wearing denim workwear or, in the final show-stopping look, carrying a baby, tears streamed down their cheeks and their eyes were puffy with emotion.
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To heighten the atmosphere, Chavarria teamed with queer jewelry designer Chris Habana for a collection of necklaces, rings, and other adornments inspired by religious imagery and prison culture—from crucifix switchblades to coke spoons molded from religious jewelry.
With models of all shapes, sizes, and levels of sadness draped in the garments, Chavarria’s craftsmanship and sly nods to culture that caught our attention last season were on full display. Ralph Lauren-inspired Polo Sport logos were flipped so the American flag was upside down and “power” was emblazoned on a handful of garments for a collection that brought a much-needed dose of reality to New York Fashion Week’s oft-artificial runways.
Photography: Hunter Abrams