I Never Liked Button-Ups. This Brand Changed My Mind

Villanti, meanwhile, founded Chava Studio after moving to Mexico City in 2019 with her husband, Guillaume Guevara, whom she met in college. Guevara’s grandfather, Edouard Gilly, was part of the wave of French immigrants who came to Mexico after World War II and began working in the textile trade. He started his own company, Gilly e Hijos in 1990, importing fabric for some of Europe’s top textile mills. Twenty years later, Guevara’s uncle, Bruno Gilly Armand, took over the business, selling bespoke men’s shirting out of its large, colorful studio, which is still located in Mexico City’s Ampliación Daniel Garza neighborhood. (Notably, next door to famed Mexican architect Luis Barragán’s first home.) It was here that Chava Studio was born. 

Villanti, who grew up in Rhinebeck, N.Y. and studied dance at Hampshire College, never imagined that she would start her own brand. Of course, she’d always admired her husband’s eye for tailoring. When they lived together in New York, Villanti recalls going with Guevara to Lord Willy’s in NoLita, where he got made-to-measure shirts. 

“Watching him go through that process, I was like, wow,” she said. “This is exceptionally beautiful that this exists for men—that you can have such a customized process and the final product feels like such a representation of you.” Around this same time, she became obsessed with menswear icons like Gianni Agnelli, who famously wore his watch over his shirt cuff. She was also working at J.Crew as a copywriter during the height of the Ludlow suit. 

Over the years, Villianti visited her in-laws’ studio a number of times, rummaging through the extensive fabric archives, and even making a few samples for herself—one inspired by a shirt with detachable cuffs that she found at a Parisian flea market. But it wasn’t until spring lockdown that she began developing a full women’s collection, and all these subconscious influences finally coalesced, revealing her own, singular point of view. She named the brand Chava Studio after the Mexican slang for a young woman—a representation of her desire to take traditional aspects of men’s tailoring and reinterpret them for women.

“When I really started playing with samples and trying things out, that’s when my mind opened to what I would now call a very, very strong aesthetic,” she said. “I have very specific opinions about how I want my shirts to fit me and what kind of collars I like, what kind of cuffs I like, etc.” 

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