The Gift of Rock and Roll—from John Varvatos

We already knew that menswear designer John Varvatos is way into Led Zeppelin. (Really, who isn’t?)

He also resurrected legendary NYC punk-rock club CBGB, casts grizzled rock gods in his ad campaigns, and designs sneaker collabs with Converse (arguably the most rock-and-roll shoe to ever walk the earth). The Detroit-born designer’s latest homage to loud sounds is a volume of iconic photos, entitled John Varvatos: Rock in Fashion. The book explores the reciprocal relationship between audio and visual, underscoring how acts ranging from Pink Floyd to The Clash and Axl Rose to Alice Cooper have influenced the world with their style and mannerisms as much as with their music.

Keep reading for a glimpse at some of our favorite photos from the book—plus a Q&A with John Varvatos himself.

David Bowie and Mick Ronson. [Photo: Mick Rock]

Paul Weller. [Photo: Ian Dickson]

Debbie Harry of Blondie. [Photos: Lynn Goldsmith (L), Bob Gruen (R)]

Pink Floyd. [Photo: Baron Wolman]

Joe Strummer of The Clash. [Photo: Janette Beckman]

Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and Bebe Buell. [Photo: Bob Gruen]

Patti Smith. [Photo: Fred Stefanko]

MC5. [Photo: Raeanne Rubenstein]

Axl Rose. [Photo: Larry Busacca]

Frank Zappa. [Photo: Baron Wolman]

Andy Warhol and Alice Cooper. [Photo: Bob Gruen]

The Clash. [Photo: Bob Gruen]

Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd. [Photo: Mick Rock]

—  —  —

What follows is a Q&A with Mr. John Varvatos—who was flanked by hallowed rock photographer Mick Rock and the bearded frontmen of ZZ Top during the event at Nordstrom Michigan Avenue, Chicago, where we spoke with him.

MEN’S SHOP DAILY: Why did you decide to compile a book of photography?
JOHN VARVATOS: “When I looked at all of the fashion books that are out there, there are none that have really touched on the cross-pollination between fashion and rock and roll. It’s kind of a continuum that started in the ’50s, and it’s running through today—and the influences that every generation has on the next generation. If you look throughout the book, you’ll see a lot of similarities in stars from the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s that have influenced young artists today in 2013.”

MEN’S SHOP DAILY: What’s the best live show you’ve ever seen?
VARVATOS: “ZZ Top! I mean what else? Little ol’ band from Texas—it doesn’t get any better than that. [Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill of ZZ Top were sitting next to him at the time.] And the one I wish I would have seen, who these guys [ZZ Top] knew and played with, that I never got to see, was Jimi Hendrix.”

MEN’S SHOP DAILY: Is there one iconic piece of clothing that you think hammers home the relationship between rock and fashion?
VARVATOS: “I don’t think it’s about a piece; I think it’s about rebelliousness. It’s about counter-culture in a way, pushing up against the big man. It’s about creating your own style, and your own sound, and your own personality. The key word in there is rebelliousness.”

MEN’S SHOP DAILY: Your fragrances are some of our favorites. What’s the concept behind John Varvatos fragrances?
VARVATOS: “We look at the fragrances we create as being for different parts of your life. There’s the elegant fragrance, which is our original Black fragrance, which is for that dressed-up, more chic part of your life. There’s the Artisan fragrance which is a little more rustic and laid-back. I think about fragrance as part of the atmosphere that you live in. Not everybody wants to wear a fragrance, and that’s their atmosphere. When I think about the fragrances as we create them, I think about the scents that affected me as I grew up. My first fragrance, actually, was influenced by a scent my grandfather wore, many, many years ago. So I think there’s a lot of memories tied to scents. It’s one of your biggest sensory areas in your brain. I think a lot of guys not only feel good about [wearing] it, but it takes them someplace else as well.”

PHOTOGRAPHER MICK ROCK [quite loud, and in an English accent]: “Let me tell you something. The girls like it. It’s a major plus with the girls.”

MEN’S SHOP DAILY: Do you have a favorite photograph from the book?
VARVATOS: “Yeah, the cover. I think the cover that Mick shot, in 1969, of Syd Barrett from Pink Floyd. What I love about the cover is, if you took the cars out of it, it could be any young, aspiring rock band today, who has an interesting style, and they also want to look like they just rolled out of bed. And it also embodies a lot of my brand, which is kind of that ‘perfectly imperfect’ thing. You know, tailored but—you don’t want to look like your dad.”

MICK ROCK [again, loud and English]: “It’s quite tailored, the jacket.”

VARVATOS: “And I love that picture. There are so many pictures—and they’re like your children, as you collect them in the book—but that one picture really stood out to me, and really stated the main voice of this book, tells the story of why you’re doing this book, and kind of interconnects the fashion and rock and roll. And that was the picture. Shot by this gentleman [Mick Rock], at—how old were you, like 19?”

MICK ROCK: “Nineteen, yeah I would have been still 19.”

VARVATOS: “So seven or eight years ago he shot that.” [Laughs] 


More John Varvatos:
Clothing | Accessories | Shoes | Fragrance

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • C. Moore, Louisiana Music January 31, 2014, 12:54 am

    Rock & Roll is about light & sound in every sense of the meanings of those words. There is a vibe in the fabric fashion as well, pun intended. So, you look at the colors that come off of the stage of a rock & roll show & listen to the sound it is generally loud & bright & if you incorporate those elements into fashion you’re bound to be innovative in your fashion style out of that impetus of the mix of sight and sound. Light & darkness equals good & evil which runs a thread through your mind and the needles that weave the fabric of fashion. The undeniable collision that occurs in a rock & roll environment is bound to create an ever evolving change in the world of fashion. I don’t want to sound like a broken record but, it produces a conundrum that is undeniably a factory setting from design to the marketing of fashion floor all aspects if rock & roll cause a collision of all of the aspects of fashion whether you literally bottle the sweat of the brow of Bono or the tear in the seat of Chris Martin’s jeans and incorporate them into a fashion line. Rock & roll is a plethora of creative sparks for constant change that births the fashion of tomorrow out of the womb of the yesterday of Bob Dylan’s harmonic sounds to Eric Clapton’s blues guitar & roll them into the colors of a Yes light show. Put it all together and what have you got but fashion genius created. John Varvatos might be on to something, no sh–, huh!

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