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John Varvatos’ Stylish San Francisco Visit

John Varvatos’ Stylish San Francisco Visit

At the back of the crowded retail space full of enthusiastic fans and industry professionals, one could just make out the figure of menswear design rebel John Varvatos, toasting with important clientele as he visited his swanky San Francisco showroom for the first time in over three years.

Woolen Coat and Sweater displayed on the John Varvatos San Francisco sales floor. Image Source: Fashion School Daily.

Woolen Coat and Sweater displayed on the John Varvatos San Francisco sales floor. Image Source: Fashion School Daily.

Guests enjoyed spirited cocktails, savory sliders and shrimp hors d’oeuvres served on beds of fresh lime, as they excitedly tried on pieces from Varvatos’ newly launched 2016 Fall Collection. There were heavy grey woolen sweaters, fringy printed neck scarves, velveteen Oxblood Chelsea boots, and of course, many variations on Varvatos’ signature leather jackets and coats.

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John Varvatos velveteen Chelsea boots in the color Oxblood. Image Source: Fashion School Daily

As a fan of Varvatos’ edgy, rock-n-roll aesthetic, I was delighted at the opportunity to pick his brain and learn more about his successful design empire. In a rare and fleeting moment of reprieve, I managed to steal Varvatos away for a quick interview. We shuffled casually over to a nearby display rack away from the revelry, for a few questions crafted for our Fashion School Daily readership.

He wore a black leather jacket with zipper accents, black denim pants, patched black and mocha button/strap dress shoes, along with a skinny black fringe scarf, lots of silver rings and leather bracelets with silver and gunmetal accents. You definitely knew you were in the presence of a fashion star.

Our conversation follows below:

Guests shop to the musical stylings of DJ Andrés Sette Arruza. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for John Varvatos)

Guests shop to the musical stylings of DJ Andrés Sette Arruza. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for John Varvatos)

 FASHION SCHOOL DAILY:  Over the last few years, how has the John Varvatos design vision changed? Who is the current Varvatos client?

JOHN VARVATOS: I think it’s a broader client base than when we started. Like anything, you grow and expand and reach more consumers. I also think the consumer has changed in the last few years. The internet has changed them, e-commerce, online businesses have changed them, so communication has changed, and they’re more aware of everything in fashion… they’re more aware of what you’re doing. They want to be more connected with you and they want to know more about you. Everything has changed in the last few years.

FSD: Is rock and roll still at the core of your inspiration? When you start a collection, what element is key?

 JV: I never really start with rock and roll… I start with a mood. Every season there is a different inspiration, and different things that turn you on. I start with fabric, actually… I start with fabric development.

I’m feeling like this past spring was very romantic so we called it the “Urban Romantic.” …In this particular example, I started with fabrics and thought to myself, what do those fabrics feel like? What would those prints feel like? What would those textures feel like? And so I started developing fabrics and then I started to develop the silhouettes.

FSD: Does gender matter in fashion design?

 JV: No because I’m influenced by womenswear; I’m influenced by women I see on the street, vintage women. And in turn, women are influenced by men… it’s all very incestuous.

FSD: How is the fashion industry moving past the binary world of gender?

 JV: I think it’s already there because of social media and the way things are communicated today. I don’t think we’ll move to a place where [many] men are wearing dresses, but in terms of the influence from both sides of the road, it’s beyond influential. Women have been influenced by wearing men’s military coats, and men in the last twenty years have been influenced by the more feminine side of women. I see it only continuing.

A display of John Varvatos' newest design collaboration with footwear brand Converse. Image Source: Fashion School Daily

A display of John Varvatos’ newest design collaboration with footwear brand Converse. Image Source: Fashion School Daily

FSD: What do you believe is the most critical question the fashion industry is facing right now?

 JV: The amount of promotions in department stores — constant promotion. Educating the consumer to not buy a regular product. To be successful and pay the rent, you have to be able to not sell everything on sale. You have to pay the bills.

FSD: What skills are most valuable to succeed at your company?

 JV: Passion is number one. I think being able to connect with the DNA of the brand. You can function in our company without being totally connected but if you want to really excel, being connected with the DNA helps you understand who the consumer is and what he’s looking for.

Patrons shop at a John Varvatos clothing store on October 1, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for John Varvatos)

Patrons shop at a John Varvatos clothing store on October 1, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for John Varvatos)

FSD: Can you share any insights or advice for rising fashion designers? 

 JV: Be a sponge. Get as much experience as you can possibly get. Never think that you know it all. I’ve been doing this for over 30 years and I never stop thinking that there isn’t something to learn or something to excite you. Work hard. A lot of people think that it’s just going to come to them… but everything is about hard work. It all goes back to having passion.

FSD: Is there a lesson that particularly stuck with you over the years?

 JV: Be true to yourself. Be true to your vision. Follow that path. Without that, you’re kind of like a rudderless ship.

An elegant chandelier and industrial decor make for a chic and edgy San Francisco showroom and retail space. Image Source: Fashion School Daily

An elegant chandelier and industrial decor make for a chic and edgy San Francisco showroom and retail space. Image Source: Fashion School Daily

FSD: If you could time travel, past of future… where would you go and why?

 JV: That’s such a big question! I would want to be in London in the early 1970s, when the whole fashion scene was changing, and the music scene was changing… Sexuality was changing. It was {David} Bowie, and Queen, and Iggy Pop and Lou Reed. There was a scene that happened there that didn’t last that long, the whole Glam Rock thing as well, but to be a fly on the wall there would have been amazing.

A woolen sweater and leather jacket paired with fitted white denim and leather boots show a true representation of the classic John Varvatos style. Image Source: Fashion school Daily

A woolen sweater and leather jacket paired with fitted white denim and leather boots show a true representation of the classic John Varvatos style. Image Source: Fashion school Daily

At the conclusion of of our interview, Varvatos offered up a smile before graciously shaking my hand and inviting me to enjoy the rest of the shopping event. As he circled around to return to the party, he was greeted by a gathering of patrons that had quietly assembled during our interview, all of which were eager to meet and converse with him.

In the party’s final moments, I managed to claim an empty seat in the corner of the large industrial retail space. As I sipped my snazzy cocktail and contemplated the words of Mr. Varvatos, I couldn’t help but close my eyes and surrender to the comfort of my leather sofa, soaking in the rock and roll musings of “Come Together,” by The Beatles.

Fashion never felt so good.

Max Helyer of @YouMeAtSixOfficial in the perfect black velvet blazer🤘💀🤘Link in bio | #JVonTour #London

A photo posted by John Varvatos (@johnvarvatos) on

Find more information on the John Varvatos San Francisco store here.

Text by Kahea Montgomery, MA Fashion Journalism student and Fashion School Daily intern.


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