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A guide to help the average man... look less average

An interview with John Varvatos

Mark Kwak

John Varvatos Celebrates The Launch Of His First Book "Rock In Fashion" I know I told everybody that I'll be starting a coats/jackets series this week, but I wanted to first share with you an interesting thing that happened to me last week.

A couple weeks ago, I got an invite to attend a party John Varvatos was holding over at his SF store on Geary St. It was dedicated to the launch of his new book, Rock in Fashion, which is a really cool photo-laden coffee table book showcasing the fashion of famous rock & roll artists. If you didn't know already, John Varvatos is a huge fan of rock & roll, and most his designs are inspired by the genre. Oh, and if I have to go even further back, John Varvatos used to be the head designer at Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, and now owns his own label.

Anyhow, I had the opportunity to sit down with the man himself for about 15-20 minutes last week to chat about anything I wanted. To be honest, I didn't really prepare questions ahead of time, so I basically ended up asking him about things I was genuinely curious about- things I wanted to share with you guys, in case you're interested in hearing about them.

John Varvatos Celebrates The Launch Of His First Book "Rock In Fashion"

So the first question I asked him was about trends, and how he approaches them. Does he take notice of trends happening in the space, and design his pieces to follow those trends, but also add a bit of his own twist? Or perhaps he is intentional about creating trends for others to follow?

Turns out that he hardly ever pays attention to trends. He said he just doesn't have the time or patience for it anymore. The only thing he really pays attention to is the silhouette of today's pieces. He mentioned that our eyes shift to enjoying different types of fits from time to time, and he needs to keep notice of that. For example, everything is now slimmer, more cut to the body, and he thinks of that when creating his clothes. Other than that, he doesn't bother with it.

He did say that sometimes, his designs turn out to become trends in the marketplace more widely (apparently he created the laceless Converse shoe). When he realizes that his stuff is being overdone, he makes it a point to stop development of those type of pieces, and revisit them years down the line.

Second, I asked John about what he actually does, now that he's the name of the brand. Does he involve himself in the business-side of things? Just be a figurehead? What exactly does he do?

John told me that he literally spends 90% of his time in the studio, designing. Sketching out pieces and seeing how his clothing looks on models. All the business stuff? His CEO handles it. The other 10% of John's time is spent being the figurehead for the brand, doing PR.

I was actually really glad to hear this, since usually, these brands just rely on someone else to do the actual designing. It was great to know John Varvatos still has a hand in everything John Varvatos (the brand) actually creates. I'm a fan.

Lastly, I asked him how he deals with creating pieces that work for all body styles. I'm not the biggest man in the world, but I still fit into this stuff quite well. Six feet four guys also fit well into his stuff.

He said this was a huge challenge, but they think about this stuff all the time. They purposefully create pieces that will work for some folks, but not for others, and sometimes they make their clothing in a way that would flatter a shorter man just as well as it would flatter a taller man.

He also uses very realistic models on his clothing, and does everything he possibly can to make everyone happy. I personally think this is still a mystery to me seeing as how many different types of body types there are, but he seems to be doing a good job.

There's Mick Rock with John Varvatos

As a side note, midway through the interview, famous rock photographer Mick Rock joined in the conversation, and damn, that man is a full-haired rockstar. At the ripe age of 65, the man was still sporting a very trendy distressed denim jacket, shaggy hair down to his shoulders, and a thick British accent that made it seem like I was talking to a member from the Beatles. What a boss. It's crazy to have been in front of two guys who have worked with Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Rolling Stones, you name it.

Anyhow, it was a great party and interview, and I'm glad to have talked to the man himself. I'll be checking out John Varvatos pieces more and more as I continue my fall shopping. Big thanks to those that allowed this to happen.

PS: I asked John what artist I need to listen to now, seeing as how classic rock is being faded away, and he told me without a doubt, Gary Clark Jr. is the new guy on the block. The next Jimmy Page or Eric Clapton, he says.