If New York Fashion Week: Men’s were a music festival, John Varvatos would have been the headliner. The American menswear designer went last and went big at #NYFWM, with a rockin’ runway show which people jostled to get into beforehand and fought during to take photos.
We meet Varvatos backstage to talk about the England-meets-SoCal inspiration behind his stripe-y spring/summer 2016 collection–a lot of it had to do with a guitar player whose name rhymes with Beef Pritchards–and why he forewent his regular runway show in Milan in favor of New York.
Shop: John Varvatos
John Varvatos: Yeah, I usually show in Milan. I’ve been showing in Milan since 2007 or something. From a business standpoint, it was a big decision because of the global business and exposure we get in Milan. From an emotional standpoint, it wasn’t a hard decision to make because I wanted to support New York Fashion Week, and I’m an American designer and I started here. It was easy emotionally to do it. From the business end, I needed to balance it to figure out what I was going to do. Plus we had already kind of committed to showing in Milan; we had booked a space there. So there was that, too.
How’s your store going in Detroit? When was the last time you were there?
I was in Detroit last month. It’s my hometown, and Detroit is great. You really feel the excitement in the city of stuff happening now. Our store’s doing, I have to say, pretty unbelievable. I didn’t have those expectations in downtown Detroit with no other retailers there. But it’s been terrific. And it’s been local and downtown people, and people traveling for business and whatever. The energy of downtown Detroit is really exciting right now. I think in the next five years it will be talked about as the biggest urban development opportunity in the world. It’s kind of what happened to Berlin or Brooklyn. I think the same thing will happen in Detroit. Fingers crossed that it works out that way.
We know you’re deeply connected to music. With this collection, were there artists you were listening to in the studio all the time? Is there a soundtrack to this collection?
There is. The inspiration of the show came from music, as it usually does for me. Stuff I was listening to, UK artists who came in the mid-1970s to California. And they got influenced by Laurel Canyon and everything that was happening there, to the whole bohemian lifestyle. And they brought their dandy-ness to that and mixed it together.
Yeah, Donovan for sure but he was more 1960s hippie. So it was Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, Fleetwood Mac. People think of Fleetwood Mac as Californian but they were British, and got into that whole scene and brought a lot of this dandy sensibility that we’ve intertwined in a new way. And there’s definitely a lot of Keith Richards in this collection. We were listening to a lot of “Wild Horses.” That southern California thing added a countrified quality to Led Zeppelin III, the Stones, Fleetwood Mac. A lot of people dialed into that and it changed music at the time–and style.