Designer Interview Series: John Varvatos
Posted: Nov 03 2015
History & Influence
John Varvatos is an award winning designer who has established a name for himself as an international men's lifestyle brand. Before becoming a fashion superstar, John worked as the head of menswear design at Calvin Klein up until the launch of his solo project in late 1999. He also previously worked for Polo Ralph Lauren and played an integral roll in the creation of Polo Jeans Company.
John Varvatos' creative process is largely influenced by Rock'n'Roll. The rock aesthetic is the foundation of the brands clothing, including ad campaigns which have featured world class musicians such as Kiss, Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, Chris Cornell, Green Day, and more.
In April 2008 John Varvatos took over the famous CBGB club in New York and transformed it into a hub for all things Varvatos. This store became the ultimate dedication to original Rock'n'Roll, displaying his clothing collections, vintage books, and high end stereo equipment. John Varvatos has hosted performances by Slash and Tom Morello at this location and to this day continues to host free monthly concerts frequented by up and coming, as well as established artists.
Chris Jones, Director of Sales in Western Canada
We sat down with the Director of Sales, Chris Jones, who gave us an insight on the brand and the transformation of the CBGB club into the Varvatos store. Here is what he had to say:
Chris: In 2005, CBGB went bankrupt. It was going to be demolished, so John came along and bought the actual physical building. The state of repair in the actual club at the time was pretty bad. It basically had been really let go and almost destroyed, but the bones of it were still there. A lot of the original posters and artwork in the store were actually still there. They weren't in very good condition, but John went in and saved a lot of the posters. On the right hand side of the store when you first walk in, there is a almost-three quarter store length bar that doubles as their cash desk, and then obviously when they're doing events, it turns into an actual bar. When you walk into the store, the door is set back from the sidewalk. He has refurbished stereo equipment from the late 60's and 70's, most of it is Marantz. So back in the 60's and 70's, Marantz stereo equipment was all encased in mahogany so it has all been re-done and re-finished. The equipment itself has been 100% repaired back to working condition. So that part of the stereo equipment is on the left-hand side of the doorway when you walk in and on the right hand side are all these speakers from the 60's and 70's, which would blow most of the stuff we have today out of the water. But, for a guy who has any Rock'n'Roll history walking in the front door he immediately goes "oh my god, this is amazing!" I (Chris) had this equipment in my first apartment. The store is also filled with Rock'n'Roll memorabilia. It's filled with pictures of Rock'n'Roll stars, with signed guitars. There is a band stand complete with full drum sets, guitars, all ready to go and they actually use it in the fall when they have concerts going on there.
Could you tell us about some of the bands and artists that have previously performed there?
Chris: For the Kiss performance it was an invitation only event, however the attendees were not told who was going to perform. You came to the show hoping that it was somebody good and you got the surprise of your life when Kiss walked onto the stage. It coincided with Kiss being our band feature for advertising season of the collection that year. When the brand was launched at Fashion Week, at the end of the runway show, John usually just walks out and tips his hat to the crowd, and does a little wave and a bow to the audience. When he did it this time, right behind him was Kiss. So Kiss came out and the audience thought, "there is no way this is actually Kiss," and then it became quickly evident to the crowd that it was in fact Kiss. Willie Nelsons & Sons have also played there before as well. Those were two really good concerts that have happened at the CBGB.
Can you speak about some of the signature fabrications that John utilizes in his collections?
Chris: It depends on each season and were he goes with the collections. He's used the metallic thread in an outerwear piece and a blazer here, but we have done it in sweaters previously, especially in collection. He did a collection piece with this lurex thread, which is a metallic thread all the way through. It was actually in the form of the Kiss eye makeup, a sweater detail that ran down the sleeve of the sweater. [We use different fabrics] depending on his whim, so it's nothing particular.
Another item that really stood out to us was the reverse dying on the knits, is there more information you can tell us about that process?
Chris: Literally what happens is when you do that, they actually have to hand roll the fabric with rollers and we have pictures of mills where this fabric is out drying on 4x8 sheets of plywood in the sunshine, but the process of roll dying the fabric is very similar to painting a wall. You know how when you're rolling paint on a wall, depending on how much paint you'll have on the roller there will be a little bit more on one section of the wall than on the other section, and then you have to go over that: that's what happens when they do it on the fabric. So when you turn that fabric inside out, you'll see that some of it is a little bit darker and some of it is a little bit lighter because the dye hasn't penetrated all the way out to the outside of the fabric. [This] gives the garment a little bit more character. After they've put the garment together they cold water wash it. When it goes through the washing process, it removes that surface dye from the seam details, so the seam details come out ultra-distressed, resulting in a garment that looks like it has gone through dozens of washes.
Was last season the first time that John Varvatos had a show at New York Fashion Week?
Chris: Yes. His first show for New York Fashion Week was for the Spring collection for 2016. Previous to that, it had always been at the Milan Fashion Week. Then after Fashion Week in Milan, he released it at a showroom in New York. But now, he has joined New York Fashion Week. He's also just recently opened up a Varvatos store in Detroit, which was his hometown. Even though Detroit is suffering economically, he really felt it was important to support his birth city. He's built a fabulous store in downtown Detroit and he continues to support the community.
Can you tell us about some of the bands that John Varvatos is currently featuring?
In terms of bands, there currently isn't a band that we are using to advertise the collection. The Star USA brand is a lifestyle brand so that is the direction we've taken in terms of advertisements.
2015 Fall Collection
Here is a look at this week's featured outfit, which highlighted some of the pieces that we currently carry in stores from the Fall/Winter 2015 collection.
There is nothing that quite says Rock'n'Roll like a nice leather jacket. The Zipper Pocket Shirt Jacket is sleek and functional and provides a warm layer over the rest of your outfit. It offers all the functionality of a tailored shirt, with the premium touch of full lambskin leather.
The Jim Morrison Tee is another piece from this collection and pays tribute to one of the most influential bands of the 70's, The Doors. This t-shirt is an essential piece from this collection. Constructed from high quality pima cotton and featuring a graphic of Jim Morrison himself, this is a must have piece that is ideal for laid back weekends.
John Varvatos has also incorporated several sweatshirts into this new collection, including the Ombre long-sleeve knit hoodie. This hoodie is extremely comfortable and makes a perfect layering piece for almost every outfit. The John Varvatos Star USA pullover sports an eye-catching graphic on a high quality drawstring hoodie. The featured graphic on this piece is a highly detailed drawing of a tiger. This piece is perfect for the weekends and any other day that screams cool and casual.
Other pieces from this collection include the Marled Shawl Collar Cardigan, which features an age-old, yet timeless silhouette. This cardigan comes in Oxblood red and is constructed from acrylic and wool. Several long-sleeve crewneck shirts are also a part of this collection. The Long Sleeve Knit Crewneck comes in an eye-catching cherrywood colour and features eyelet detailing. Look for these in Boys'Co retail stores.
Their selection of jeans include the staple wight jean, which is their skinny fit. This pair of jean features a modern silhouette, consisting of a low rise cut. These pair of jeans come in a dark stone wash for an aged look. Detailing on this piece include a zip fly closure and "V" stitching on the rear pockets. This collection also utilizes waxed denim for that extra Rock'n'Roll attitude.
To take a closer look at our full selection of John Varvatos visit our 4 Boys'Co retail locations!