Chris Echevarria is a prep. Now he’s ready to lean into that look, no matter how hard he fought against it during his time as a student at a private school in New Jersey.
“You had your uniform at private school, and there were all these pieces, whether it was your gym uniform, or your formal uniform, or your relaxed polo-and-chino sort of situation that you'd wear with a Sperry Top-Sider pair of loafers,” Echevarria said in an interview with Fashion Dive. “And this was stuff that I would rush home to get out of. Now it’s become sort of this fabric of my daily, everyday wardrobe.”
He’s now sharing that wardrobe with a wider audience.
His new 27-piece menswear apparel collection is called Academy by Chris Echevarria — not to be confused with Swaim Hutson's The Academy New York menswear line — and it launches Friday, Nov. 17 at Echevarria’s e-commerce site academybychrisechevarria.com.
Called Collection 001 - School Clothes, this initial drop will feature knitwear, outerwear, shirting, pants and jewelry. Prices range from $75 for a hat to $2,500 for an 18-karat gold ring, and Echevarria said, perhaps jokingly, that the designation “001” is meant to imply “there's going to be at least 100” subsequent collections.
“It's kind of my life's work,” said Echevarria. “We've done other things, but primarily footwear. So this is something I've always wanted to do.”
Echevarria, who studied menswear design at the Fashion Institute of Technology, said he “stumbled into the footwear industry” and felt he could make a change there. His resulting line, Blackstock & Weber, launched in 2017, has since become sought after by consumers, as well as brands looking to collaborate. In 2023 alone, Echevarria’s modern take on classic men’s footwear has announced limited-edition collections with Billionaire Boys Club, JJJJound, Palmes and his prep-school staple, Sperry.
Now it’s time for something completely different, said Echevarria, who celebrates his 36th birthday the Monday following this Friday’s release of his first menswear collection.
“I told my team that anything else was unacceptable,” he said. “Not because I wanted [the release] on my birthday, but because of the way the calendar is set up. Thanksgiving is next week, then we're pretty much in Christmas mode. And as far as releasing new products, it's not really the best time, so this week is pretty much the only week that we have.”
Launching on a strict timeline wasn’t his only challenge, though. The difficulty of launching a menswear line right now, Echevarria said, is doing something impactful.
“There's a lot of noise out there,” Echevarria said. “The noise can detract from things that are impactful. There are brands out there that take shortcuts, and they're not getting the best fabrics. They don't have the best practices as far as quality and standards when it comes to making their goods, because it's easy to put stuff out nowadays. I think the hardest thing is doing it in an impactful and mindful way.”
By way of example, Echevarria said he had all his fabrics for the collection flown in from mills in Japan, with the exception of his Harris tweeds, which he sourced from Scotland.
"Without the fashion ecosystem that we have here in New York, there is no Academy.”
Designer, Academy by Chris Echevarria
Manufacturing is strictly local, though. Echevarria and his team are based in offices in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and he’s working with the Brooklyn, New York-based, family-owned manufacturer Storytellers and Creators to produce his line.
“It’s all made in New York,” he said. “We worked with people right here in our ecosystem. We had the embroidery done, and even the enclosure on the hat is custom made. We had somebody in the garment district make those. We had the gold we ordered in from the Jewelry District and had this ring made and hand-etched by this older gentleman, and that's just his craft. That's just what he does. Everything has a story woven within it. Without those people, without the fashion ecosystem that we have here in New York, there is no Academy.”
While Echevarria said he has no plans to make womenswear — “my purpose here is to help the guy,” he said — there are other developments coming for his company that he’s not at liberty to discuss yet, he said.
“There's a lot that I can't talk about,” he said. “I'm under NDA [a nondisclosure agreement] . But a lot of interesting things, a lot of really cool things are happening. Things that you've never seen from us before.”
It’s not just about what’s next, though. Echevarria is also clear on what he wants to say right now.
“What I'm telling through this line, this collection, is the story of growing up and coming of age,” Echevarria said. “It’s about the overall progression and the understanding of certain garments in American menswear. And you know, putting my spin on those things.”