Fashion designer John Varvatos counts Jimi Hendrix and Iggy Pop as his greatest influences. It’s no wonder then, that not just his fashion collections, but also his stores and ad campaigns doff a hat to rock ‘n’ roll music.
Born in ‘Motor City’ Detroit, John Varvatos is not just known as the man behind the launch of Calvin Klein’s iconic boxer briefs (with the Mark Wahlberg ad campaign) or the talent behind Converse’s bestselling laceless sneakers or even for his leather biker jackets and Bowery jeans. The 60-year-old designer also enjoys the rare distinction of having his name on a limited edition 2013 Chrysler and he hosts a radio show comprising songs and interviews with bands and artists that have influenced him. Varvatos’s style icon, not surprisingly, is Steve Mc Queen.
Varvatos had not designed a piece of clothing till the age of 29 and showcased his first collection in 2000 (at the age of 45). Although he’s inspired by rock stars, their style and mythology yet Varvatos veers towards clean cuts and great fits rather than grunge. The influence of rock ‘n’ roll can be noted in his brand’s ad campaigns that have featured music by Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper and Green Day, among others.
Varvatos got his first taste of the fashion industry when he worked for Polo Ralph Lauren in 1984 followed by a career-defining stint with Calvin Klein and then a return to Polo as head of menswear (1995) where he was responsible for establishing the Polo Jeans Company.
Today Varvatos’s menswear is accompanied by a heavy accent on accessories such as belts, bags, footwear, eyewear, watches and fragrance. The three time winner of Council of Fashion Designers of America awards (twice as Designer of the Year), Varvatos marries vintage designs and tailoring techniques with modern styles to meet the needs of the contemporary man.
In GQ’s Men of the Year issue (2007), Simon Doonan wrote of Varvatos, “Once John’s followers are well and truly addicted to his rich, textured duds and his slip-ons, he goes in for the kill. He plays into the greatest of all dude obsessions, rock ‘n’ roll. This is the last straw. Once Varvatos injects his image with a lethal dose of Aerosmith, a whiff of Alice Cooper, a soupçon of Iggy Pop, and a whisper of Joe Strummer, men are powerless to resist.”
Varvatos looks back and reinvents for the present to come up with some must-haves as Woodward jeans with pick stitch detail and linen button front knit shirts. Of his style and sensibility, in a 2008 interview to NY Times he said, “I try to do clothes for guys who want to look masculine but who don’t want to have to worry about looking like a fashion victim every time they walk out of the house.” In the same interview he also said, “When you do men’s wear, it’s less about thinking outside the box than about pushing the walls of the box outward… Men want to be evolutionary, not revolutionary.”
Image Credits: John Varvatos
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