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Willy Chavarria, Hillary Taymour Talk State of the Fashion Industry

Fashion designers Willy Chavarria and Hillary Taymour took the stage Monday night during a panel discussion hosted by Marist College’s fashion program where they discussed the state of the fashion industry and staying true to their missions.

Moderated by The New York Times fashion director and chief fashion critic Vanessa Friedman and Marist College’s director of fashion program John Bartlett, the designers spoke to a room of alumni and students, giving insight into their own businesses and how they’ve navigated the fashion industry.

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“In 2009, I was really lucky to start a business in fashion school and it took off naturally,” said Taymour, who is the creative director of fashion label Collina Strada. “I’m still lucky for it to be continuing naturally with this successful small business. I’m happy that it’s a sustainable small business, but I’m very aware of the industry because everything is very grow, grow, grow. I don’t think that’s the way for me. I think to be happy with the art you’re making and being able to speak to the audience that you want to speak to and having a narrow vision works for me.”

Taymour spoke about how despite challenges in the industry, she remains committed to creating a sustainable and eco-friendly fashion brand because she believes it’s the right thing to do.

Chavarria also spoke about staying true to one’s values during the panel, stating that supporting social justice issues has always been a core part of his namesake label.

“My own past growing up as a queer person of color in a small town and having a family that was part of the Civil Rights Movement and being very aware of these factors that hold people down — I guess I had been in the industry long enough that I was like, everyone is out for themselves here and there’s not a lot of good,” he said. “I was only going to do something if there was some good, otherwise I would open a bakery or something.”

During the question and answer portion of the panel, an audience member referenced the designers’ mission of staying true to their values and asked how they communicate that to their customers and following.

“You have to align yourself with as many organizations as there are that have the same philosophy of creating change through fashion,” Chavarria said. “For me, it’s just being so convinced with yourself and your own mission that you include that in anything that you do.”

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