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  • Writer's pictureLaura Rocha

At Willy Chavarria, Genderbending Catholicism

The Chavarria man doesn’t fit the traditional Catholic male stereotype. That’s the point.


In front of an altar covered with a white tablecloth and decorated with candles, models in cowboy hats and oversized tailoring made their way down the runway. Hints of Catholic symbolism popped up throughout: a jeweled cross embellishes a black cowboy hat; white and black lace mantillas hang over and obscure models’ faces; rosary beads and crosses dangle from models’ necks. But these symbols are subverted — mantillas obscure the faces of people in menswear, instead of covering the hair of women attending Mass. The Willy Chavarria man doesn’t fit the traditional Catholic male stereotype. That’s the point. 

The FW24 collection swirls differing aesthetics — a blend of cowboys, streetwear, unboring menswear, and a hint of goth edge. The color palette is sober and neutral, but with so much going on in silhouettes and proportions, with oversized lapels and ties, the collection uses the uncanny for unity. This is bold fashion meant to be worn out on the streets.

Reimagining religious symbolism — which is so strongly relevant for Mexican and Mexican-American culture — speaks, to me, to the power of reinterpreting stories that raised us. As someone who grew up in a strongly Catholic society, I instantly recognized the strong ties between some of these symbols with gender roles and expectations. Looking at male models wearing a mantilla, a symbol that is supposed to indicate female humility and restraint, I felt a pleasant surprise. A jeweled cross across the forehead as an accessory is reminiscent of Ash Wednesday. 

For some people, these subversions may seem shallow and somewhat obvious, but for me, it’s a daring choice. None of these motifs are used in a way to protest against religion itself, but rather to question the way religious leaders have interpreted and taught these doctrines for centuries. They speak against the guilt that we feel when we dare to step outside of useless gender boxes and be ourselves, which is a single interpretation of the messages in sacred texts. Nothing more. 🌀

You can view the whole collection here.


Laura Rocha-Rueda is a Colombian fashion and fiction writer based in Brooklyn who holds a Creative Writing MFA from The New School. She is your local Swiftie and will gladly chat about anything glittery and soft, and about why dismissing pop culture as frivolous is misguided and sad.


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