Fashion Week founder Fern Mallis interviews iconic menswear designer John Varvatos about how he combines a rock 'n' roll sensibility, old-world craftsmanship and modern innovation to produce stunning attire.
Fresh off the publication of John Varvatos: Rock in Fashion, he's now prepping for the official launch of John Varvatos Records.
This event is part of the Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis series.
John Varvatos grew up in Detroit—the music melting pot of America—where Motown, rock & roll, blues, jazz and punk melded together in an unforgettable period of music history. At an early age John was exposed to defining musicians including The Who, Led Zeppelin, Detroit’s own MC5, Alice Cooper, Bob Seger and The Stooges. The creative spirit, electricity and edginess intrinsic in the personal style of these rock ‘n’ roll icons inspired John and influenced the evolution of his eclectic sensibility. This can be seen as a unifying theme in his design and it is deeply ingrained in every expression of his brand, which includes his famed 315 Bowery boutique in New York City, formerly the seminal underground music club CBGB’s. Here, Varvatos pays tribute to the musical heritage of this legendary site.
With a unique brand position that unites a rock n' roll sensibility, old world craftsmanship and modern innovation, Varvatos has become one of the most well known menswear designers in the world. His designs often draw inspiration from the past only to repurpose these ideas into something entirely new. The resulting collections reflect quality and attention to detail while creating luxurious, comfortable clothing for a modern lifestyle. “I have a great reverence for the craft of old world tailoring, but a big part of what I love designing is functional, timeless clothing that is created to be lived in.”
John Varvatos joined Polo Ralph Lauren in 1984. Recruited by Calvin Klein in 1990, he was appointed Head of Menswear Design and oversaw the launch of the men’s collection and the influential cK brand. In 1995, he returned to Polo as Head of Menswear Design for all Polo Ralph Lauren brands and created the highly successful RLL, Black Label and Polo Jeans Company.
For Fall/Winter 2000, John launched his premiere men’s collection and in the same year was recognized by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) with the Perry Ellis Award for New Menswear Designer. He received a second CFDA award for Menswear Designer of the Year in 2001; this successive honor was an unprecedented achievement in this category. In 2005, John was once more recognized by the CFDA with the Menswear Designer of the Year Award, and in 2007 GQ magazine named John “Designer of the Year” in its 12th Annual “Men of the Year” issue. In September 2013, he was honored as Menswear Designer of the Year at the 10th Annual Style Awards during NY Fashion week.
In October 2013 John released his first book entitled, John Varvatos: Rock in Fashion, which documents the elements of rock style that have embodied the music community for decades. Most recently, further rooting the brand in music, John Varvatos has entered into a strategic partnership with Republic Records to formally launch JOHN VARVATOS RECORDS in 2014.
The award-winning creator and organizer of Fashion Week in New York and cities across the globe, Fern Mallis has been an industry game changer in the world of fashion and design for 32 years. A former senior vice president of IMG Fashion and executive director of CFDA, she hosts fashion-industry talk show “Fashion Insiders with Fern Mallis” on SiriusXM’s flagship celebrity talk channel, Stars. She is currently the president of her own leading international fashion and design consultancy, Fern Mallis LLC.