When he was younger, Chris Echevarria went to a private middle school. Briefly. See, the sort of school Echevarria was attending requires a uniform. You’ve got your oxford shirt and chinos and schoolboy blazer—worn with loafers or boat shoes, naturally—for the colder months. You’ve got your gym kit, with a sweatshirt and athletic shorts and basic sneakers. And you’ve got your summer uniform, with chino shorts and a polo. These are, in the minds of the folks who are in charge at such institutions, three distinct sets. It’s a given. A no-brainer.
Echevarria didn’t see it that way. “I just decided that I was going to come to school in mixes and matches of all of those things, because there was nothing in the rule book that said that you couldn’t,” he explains. The school quickly began doling out demerits. “And with the disciplinary system in private schools, you get a couple demerits, you get detention. You get a couple more demerits, you get suspended. A few more of those, you get asked to leave. And I was ultimately asked to leave.”
He’s telling me this on the phone with me the day after I stopped by his studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yard to look at his new clothing line Academy by Chris Echevarria. And he’s laughing, because the inaugural collection is, in large part, a riff on the clothes that got him into all that trouble back in the day. There are crisp, striped oxford shirts. Chinos adorned with tiny, embroidered flags (“an homage to Ralph,” he explains). Crewneck sweatshirts with “Academy” emblazoned across the chest in block letters. There’s even a navy blue blazer with an “A” crest on the breast pocket.
All of that should make sense to folks who already know Echevarria’s name. He is, after all, also the founder and creative director of Blackstock & Weber, the brand that helped turn loafers into the cool-kid cognoscenti’s shoes of choice in recent years. And he was recently named the creative director of an upcoming, limited capsule collection with Sperry. Classic, blue-blooded Americana is a staple of his output.
But take a closer look at Academy’s lineup—or, hell, the freaked-out loafers coming out under the Blackstock & Weber banner—and you know that’s not all that’s at play. A tiger-camo safari jacket and matching cargo pants draw on Echevarria’s long-running obsession with the Japanese take on Americana you’ll find in magazines like Popeye and Go Out and HailMary. (That fascination works itself into the collection in a subtler manner, too: Everything is made in New York from Japanese fabrics.) And the way everything is meant to be mashed up borrows not just from Echevarria’s own academic history but also from the “family members—my uncles, my cousins—who didn't go to prep school and wore Ralph or Tommy or whatever in their own way, with Jordans and jeans. That was something that I always looked up to, too.”
He continues: “There are so many different aspects of American fashion within all of those things that I sort of threw in the mixer. And what you have in the glass now is Academy.”
The way Echevarria sees it, the brand is just another entry in an ongoing storytelling tradition from one of the few American designers of color working in this space. “It’s just me continuing to build on that story, that narrative, that thread,” he says. “I think that we’re in a great place in history to hear that perspective from somebody of color. Before this time, it may not have existed. We have yet to see a creative director of color in any of these classic American brands. But I think that through creating my own, I’ll have full control and I can tell it the way that I would like to tell it.”
The Safari Jacket, Tiger Camo
The Outsider Balmacaan, Red/Blue Plaid
The Schoolboy Blazer, Navy
The Bookstore Crewneck, Navy/Red
The Track Team Tee, White
The Alumni Joggers, University Gray
The Standard Issue Oxford, Blue Stripe
The Flag Chino, Khaki
The Bookstore Hat, Sand
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