John Varvatos on Closing NYFWM (Interview)

John Varvatos closed Men’s Fashion Week in New York with his signature fusion of spectacle, elegance, and The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” blasting at the audience from all angles. His 17th menswear show took a step away from the typical runways of the Skylight Clarkson Square for a grander venue: the historic Diamond Horseshoe, a restored ballroom in Midtown, complete with grand staircases and elaborate light fixtures.

“I didn’t want to show in the regular box where everyone else does it, where CFDA does it,” Varvatos reveals. “I was looking for someplace that connected with the show. And we recalled this space – when you go down there you’ve just set the mood for it, it’s pretty amazing. And most people haven’t been there. I’ve talked to a hundred people today about it, and only one or two had been there before.”

Varvatos‘ show ended Men’s Week on a furry, textured note: his collection was replete with long, calfskin, leopard hair jackets, suede pants, and handmade boots.

“Last season was the Urban Romantic,” he explains, referring to his last menswear collection, complete with elegant lacey cuffs and sophisticated wools. “We started this season thinking, ‘It’s that guy. That’s our guy.’ I felt it was really my note. But I felt there was another part of that guy, of all guys, that I call ‘Wild at Heart.’ He may have this business job, he may be in a suit all day, it may only come out once in a great while – for some it comes once a week, some only at night.

And the choice of venue?

“I felt there was this Wild at Heart spirit and I thought, ‘What a great place to do that,’ down in the Diamond Horseshoe, which is a place of fantasy, where you go to escape. And the clothes also reflect that. There’s that very romantic feel that we carry on, because that’s our guy; it’s his side where he can be more adventurous.”

Varvatos is so absorbed by the textures and textiles of his latest collection he’s hard-pressed to pick a favorite, standout piece.

“The first look coming out is just so gorgeous. Then when we get halfway into it, and those lynx jackets start coming out… it’s just so rich. You live with it, so it’s hard to have a favorite piece. If someone said, ‘Pick your 8 favorite looks,’ I might be able to do that.”

Creating an entire fashion line is never easy, but only made more difficult during times of great political and cultural upheaval. On fashion as it fits into the current socio-political climate, Varvatos offers:

“This week alone has been an emotional week for a lot of people, with all the things that are going on. Every night some other explosive thing is happening – it seems impossible. Part of me wanted to make a bigger statement on the runway about it all, but it’s hard to do, to be politically correct, during Fashion Week, without off-putting people. One thing I’m excited about, though, is that tere are marches and protests – and I believe that a lot of young people making their voices heard. I think now that we’re feeling the real impact [of this new presidency], and our voices need to be out there. This is a country we love, and a people we love.”


John Varvatos on Urban Romantics, and the Death of the Uniform

John Varvatos closed New York Fashion Week: Men’s with an intimate, exclusive 140-seat show in the basement of the Roxy Hotel in TriBeCa Thursday night, where a handful of fashion’s most prestigious eyes witnessed a gorgeous collection of tailored gray wools and cottons with old-school detailing.

The show, “Urban Romantic,” blended a timeless, historic feel with modern silhouettes and grooming. Squished into a corner of the Django bar underneath the Roxy, one almost felt they were watching European princes strutting through the dungeons of their palace as the models glided past.

In attendance were all of Men’s Week’s A-list, including Colton Haynes, Eric Rutherford, and Kellan Lutz.

Check out the full show here.

We were able to chat with the famed menswear designer before the show and catch his thoughts on the collection and the current state of fashion.

Can you tell me about the collection, what inspired it?

I usually don’t have names, but I’m calling it the Urban Romantic. This was inspired by my love for the south of France, and these romantic areas that I develop things in, and how that plays into such an urban environment as New York, or London, or Paris, or any global big city. And I think there’s young guys who love the modernity and the urban-ness of living in a city, between all the arts and opportunities the city gives. But they also have this passion for old world things. And the romance. And that’s my guy, and I wanted to talk about that guy who loves texture, and detail, and finesse. But still wants to be contemporary, and wants the fits to be contemporary. 

Are there specific images that inspired you?

The images we had up on the wall were really about details, whether it was fabric texture or button treatment… we have a fencing jacket, but it’s done in a modern way. We’ve been around for 16 years. We have our own history. So it’s about, how are those things new to my history? Your history evolves every season, so what’s the evolution? Last spring we were pretty Rolling Stones rock ‘n’ roll, and this is very different. It’s more elegant, and romantic, and less obvious in a way. I think there’s something about the finesse of what I call Old World Sensibility, a finesse that I sometimes feel is missing in today’s very cut-and-dried manufacturing of things.

So you’ve talked about how you’ve changed in a year. How’s the fashion industry changed since last year, in your eyes?

I think the whole world has changed. We read all these things about people’s business being difficult. We use e-commerce. The urban guy that I’m talking about is not only online searching things, but he’s online shopping. And it’s changed how people value their time, to a degree. People can say, “I’m a very busy person,” and at 11 o’clock at night they can go on to John Varvatos’ site and see something, and think, “Wow, these are great,” and buy them.

So androgynous fashion is really creeping onto men’s runways. Have you been doing any of that?

Our guy has always been a pretty masculine guy – gay, straight, whatever. But there’s always been a softness to what we do anyway, and you’ll see that in this collection. Because there’s a masculinity, but there’s also the softness of the detail, and the texture. It’s not this whole athleisure thing. I look everywhere, and I see it so much, and I think, “Is that all? Is that all there is?” I still like to dress up! These guys, they love dressing up. They love getting their first suit. But they don’t want to look like their dad. They want to do it themselves.

If you were to look at today’s style influencers, is there anyone you admire? Or are you over all these young people?

We have a lot of those guys who shop with us, and I’m intrigued by how they put things together. It’s cool. Creating your own personality, and not worrying about the trend. Making it yours. I’ve said from the first show, “The uniform is dead.” Our guy isn’t into the uniform, doesn’t care about the big logos. He cares more about creating his own style that says something to his personality and to his character.

Is this season something you can see yourself wearing?

I love these clothes – they’re forever. They’re not about a moment, a time and place. You pull it out of your closet ten years from now, and you think, “Why haven’t I worn this in five years? It looks cooler today!” This collection wasn’t about a moment, it was about a sensibility. No matter where I’ve ever been in my life or career, I’ve loved these clothes. But I love to put the edge with it. The right boot, and the right accessories, and the cool scarf. Because that makes it your own. Menswear, it’s a one-button, or two-button, or polo, or pant, but we’re not playing with proportion in the same way as women’s, as much as we want to.


WATCH IT LIVE: The First NYC John Varvatos Show in 8 Years

For the first time in eight years, John Varvatos is returning home to the United States to show his collection as part of NYFW: Men’s. Watch it live here.

This week is, as you now know, the inaugural New York Fashion Week: Men’s, and it’s bringing a lot of big names together. New York favorite Public School presented on Tuesday, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger, Rag & Bone, Thom Browne, Coach, Siki Im and more are all taking part. And for the first time in eight years, John Varvatos is returning home to the United States to show his collection. The Detroit native has been showing in Milan, so the change is a big deal. It kind of solidifies the week’s importance.

“I am very excited about coming home to help launch the first ever NYC menswear week! I’m an American designer, we’re an American brand and New York City is my home, so with the launch of the men’s dedicated fashion week, it felt like the right time,” Varvatos told us.

Take part in a little bit of fashion history and watch the John Varvatos show livestream during the first NYFW: Men’s right here at 8 p.m. Eastern.

CBGB Festival Hits NYC This Week, Featuring Cheetah Chrome

As I left BINGO last night, I stared across the street at Daniel Boulud’s DBGB Kitchen & Bar and the John Varvatos store and all the new construction near Joey Ramone Place, East 2nd Street. I was looking back, something I always do with caution. I miss a lot from those days of yore, but not the seriously rough streets or the death-by-needles and the AIDS-related disease that decimated a generation. I don’t miss the poverty, the desperation. I do miss many great friends and clubs and bars. Although I always leaned to Max’s Kansas City for my action, I do miss CBGB.

The club started in 1973, and a million bands later shuttered on October 15th, 2006, with Patti Smith doing the honors. The house that Hilly Kristal ruled left a legacy of showcasing budding stadium acts as well as countless bands that went nowhere, and tons in between. It was a watering hole where rockers came to listen to rockers. It had rock chopspurity despite all its impurities. It died hard, fighting court cases, landlords, and headlines. It has been missed. Somebody is doing something about that.

Starting Thursday, the CBGB Festival hits NYC. The three-day event features over 30 venues hosting innumerable bands, film screenings, a music and film conference, and a spirit festival. I could go on, but it’s easier to let you go here for the breakdown. There’s even rumors that a CBGB club may happen down the road. I contacted Dead Boys guitarist author, gentleman, and old friend Cheetah Chrome for his two cents on all this.

The festival is upon us. What does it mean to be playing in a festival that includes blasts from the past and still-kick’ers’ like Richard Lloyd, David Johansen, Glen Matlock, Tommy Ramone , and so many more?
Well, it’s great. I love to see the old gang whenever I can. I have a feeling this time it’ll be tempered by the people who aren’t there just as much as the ones that are, though. A lot of the old gang aren’t going anywhere, and they’ll be missed.

We had tea a few times in the booths of Max’s Kansas City. What were the differences between CBGB and Max’s –  besides the bad food?… actually, it wasn’t that bad.
CC) Well, the food was a huge difference; believe me, I know – I lived on Hilly burgers and chili for six months! To me there wasn’t a whole lot of difference between the two. That seemed to be more of a New York thing, after the big incident between Dick and Jayne; we missed that, we were on the road. So we just happily went between the two. There was a real sense of family at both. Of course, after the split, the CBGB family sort of banished us for awhile…luckily, me and Hilly got past that and were close right up until his death. 

I saw you post somewhere:
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it-"
George Santayana. What needs to be remembered and heeded from those CBGB days?
Beware of men named Seymour bearing contracts. Read anything you sign before you sign it. Look down at the floor ahead of you wherever you walk. Smell chili before you eat it. And the soundman isn’t out to get you.

Who are you looking forward to seeing at the festival?
Everybody the night I’m playing, I’m leaving the next morning! I won’t have time to see anyone else! I wish I could see Bebe Buell’s set, but I’m needed at the film festival at that time.

On Facebook and probably in other parts of your life that I am not seeing you are very outspoken and political. Since your Dead Boys days and through your rock history how have you strived to tell your public your viewpoint, and how important is it to mix sounds with enlightenment? What lyrics need to be heard?
The last two MC5 albums; everybody seems to have missed them the first time, and they’re just as relevant today. Steppenwolf’s Monster album. Rage Against the Machine.

Bebe Buell told me how smart Stiv Bators was. Tell me about him, the Dead Boys, and while you’re there …how did you survive those times?
Stiv was very smart and very fun to have long conversations with about politics and conspiracies, movies and music, you name it. He was the closest thing to a brother I ever had, and he taught me quite a lot. Dead Boys was a pretty special bunch, all very quick and funny as hell.  I miss those times a lot.

How I survived I can’t figure out; I figure God must have kept me around to raise my son – I doubt it has anything to do with me. I’m not doing anything earthshaking but he very well may someday!

Where are you musically today as opposed to, say, 1984, and what’s new that you like?
Same place pretty much –doing solo gigs and I hate all the new bands!

John Varvatos Gets High with Green Day

Self-proclaimed music fiend John Varvatos has turned artists like Iggy Pop, The Roots, Cheap Trick, and Alice Cooper into models for his previous campaigns, so it was only a matter of time before he asked Green Day to rep his brand. For the American menswear designer’s spring ad campaign captured by photographer Danny Clinch, band members Billie Joe Armstrong, Tre Cool, and Mike Dirnt are found chilling on an iron beam against the Manhattan skyline—completely unfazed by the fact that they’re dangerously up high&#8212because that’s just what punk rockers do.

According to WWD, the shots reference "Philippe Petit’s daredevil act in Man on Wire and Charles C. Ebbets’ classic 1932 photograph, ‘Construction Workers Lunching on a Crossbeam.’" See more campaign images and a video here.

Since actors were the cover stars and campaign models of 2011, are musicians next?

Lou Reed and Mick Rock Reminisce over Transformer

Last night at CBGB the John Varvatos store in NYC, Lou Reed and Mick Rock spoke about their friendship and work relationship spanning from the very beginning of both of their careers in music and photography to now. The gathering was to celebrate the launch of their photo-filled book Transformer, showcasing many previously unseen images of Lou by Rock, and a few of Rock by Lou.

After guests milled about the store with cocktails, perusing the fruits of the artists’ labor, Rock and Lou took their places on a stage, not to perform, but to talk about their history. Lou Reed’s adoration of Mick Rock came from a few things: his ability to capture him in a way that felt alive, and real (as opposed to what he described as movie theater cardboard cutouts,) and for their shared affinity for staying up all night.  

A few jabs at Pop music masquerading as Rock later, Lou was on about Malcolm McLaren and the Sex Pistols, and how he did it first. Whatever you say, Lou. I just wish the S&M store Lou used to dress from on MacDougal were still around…






Feelin’ It: Texture Galore at the John Varvatos Spring Preview

John Varvatos, whose ad campaigns have included Iggy Pop, The Roots, and most recently, the infamous Willie Nelson, kept that rocker spirit alive with the spring collection on preview today. Though some took literal inspiration (more on that later,) it was the plethora of textures, you know, the kind make people want to reach out and touch… you, that kept had this girl wishing for options in her size.

Whether iterated as an über-soft brushed-suede jacket, a resin-coated cardigan (taking all grandpa-ish feelings away from said sweater) or a mixed-media cardigan with hand-painted leather panels, everything was visually and texturally interesting, and right on John Varvatos tone. ‘Til spring.

hand painted


John Varvatos Kicks Off ‘Fashion Star’ With New Collection

NBC’s couture competition show Fashion Star is down to the wire, so what better time for John Varvatos to show off some of his new threads? Menswear designer, show judge and rock enthusiast Varvatos opened the show with his new line. Per usual, Varvatos wore the rock influence on his sleeve, with a few jackets that looked like less electric approaches to the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album art. In keeping with the aesthetics, his models walked out to Queen’s "Now I’m Here."

Following Varvatos’ exhibition came the contestants. Nzimiro Oputa was able to land a $100,000 offer from Macy’s for a collection built around his versatile, classic cardigans. After a brief and tense bidding war, Kara Laricks’ distinctive tuxedo shirts were sold to Saks Fifth Avenue for $80,000, with H&M saying they’d "save up some money" for her.

In the next pairing, Luciana Scarabello and Nikki Poulos didn’t fare quite as well. Nikki ended sans bid with her prom dress-style maxi frocks; Luciana’s retro-evoking dresses earned a $50,000 bid from Saks. Ronnie Escalante got a $50,000 bid from H&M thanks in part to an innovative ad campaign involving a few red balloons, but Ross Bennett, who rocked the classic look but couldn’t get his more modern designs just right, and Orly Shani, who the buyers saw as having taken "a step backwards," found themselves on the chopping block as well. Ross ended up with the elimination, and now only six remain, with next week yielding a triple elimination.

But anyway, back to Varvatos.

For some more of Varvatos’ hits for 2012, here’s his rock-edged showing from Men’s Fashion Week in Milan back in January:

And, because there’s never not a good reason to post a Queen song, here’s Varvatos’ show’s soundtrack:

Green Day Is Now Modeling for John Varvatos

I’m just going to go ahead and say it. I’m not a fan of Green Day.  I liked Dookie, but anything beyond that just never reached my radar. But who am I to argue with legions of Broadway fans who turned up to see American Idiot?  Apparently they are still as relevant and beloved as ever and even picked up a modeling gig with John Varvatos.  The ads are up now, along with a Man On Wire-styled video.

Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool follow a long list of rockers who’ve posed for the brand including The Roots, Cheap Trick, Iggy Pop and Alice Cooper.   “It’s just the right combination of laid-back and outrageous to perfectly represent the star quality of the band and the only place big enough to hold them," Varvatos said.

This is punk rock, kids?