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The John Varvatos Interview


Q. What are your favorite looks and styles for men in Costa Mesa from your collection?
I think for me it’s the casual elegant look. Men are a little bit relaxed here, but they’re still quite chic and we do lots of lightweight suede jackets that you can wear in the evening but you can dress them up or dress them down.

I start with the jacket as a big component of the collection. I don’t see as much of it in the stores and I think we offer something different. This season especially I think it’s the season of the jacket. Boots are always a big part of the collection and you can wear lightweight boots. It adds a little bit of edge to your wardrobe and it doesn’t have to be an extreme boot. It can still be something quite light and soft.

For me the best looks are great fitting looks. It doesn’t matter what a guy spends on his wardrobe, being a little bit sloppy about the fit and then also being well fitted is a big difference. A guy in a well-fitted suit, it doesn’t matter if he spent $500 on it or $5,000, if it fits well, it transcends his whole look. He just looks stronger and more stylish and probably sexier too, all of those things.

Q. I wish you would do women’s clothes, will you ever?
Everybody says that to me. I’d love to do it. The real question always is how do you get to it all? We do so many products and I don’t want to take my eye off of what we’re doing. I want to constantly improve it and keep it exciting and innovative and then to take on a women’s silhouette, which is a different body and a different fit and different mentality, it’s a lot of focus. We will at some point in time for sure. We might not do a full collection with gowns and dresses and everything. We might just do great jackets and leathers and boots and shoes and bags and things that all the women always say, “I wish you did those for girls.” I hear it all the time.

Q. Do you have a go-to look when you need to get dressed in a hurry?
I always think about it in simplicity: simple, lightweight suede jackets and shirts and lightweight leather jackets. I start with all those pieces then put a great fitting jean with it and the boot. Or, choose a suit that you can take the jacket off and mix it with jeans and a t-shirt and match everything. But when I travel, I travel very uncomplicated and I care about how I look because I’m meeting people and doing publicity or whatever I do, and I care but I don’t want to make it complicated. I don’t want to have to carry that many things. I think people want simplicity in their life in general. Everything else is crazy out there.

Q. I know that music is a huge influence in your life. Did you ever want to be a musician?
Of course I wanted to be a musician but I really wasn’t very talented in that regard even though I still wanted to do it. It started when I was probably six years old. I grew up in a little house in Detroit that was probably 800 to 1,000 square feet. My bedroom was small with two other brothers in there and the only way I could get away from them and my family was to put headphones on and it transported me some place. We didn’t have the internet but I started watching television shows and I’d see the Rolling Stones and different people the way they dressed and I wanted to follow that style.

Q. I heard you love to people watch, where is your favorite place to people watch?
Everywhere. It’s everywhere from walking to this mall today to going to concerts, Paris flea markets to the streets of London, wherever I am--Tokyo. I still take a lot of pictures.
When I was in high school my dad gave me a 35 millimeter camera and I started taking pictures at concerts and then people on campus and people at school and it turned into capturing moments, not even knowing why I was doing that other than I wanted to take pictures.
Today it’s easier because with the phone you can act like you’re talking on the phone and do it. I’m constantly taking pictures and I find it inspiring. I get more inspiration from women than I get from men because there’s more freedom in women’s wear. But it could be everything and it’s architecture too. I love architecture. With architecture it’s all about great detail. It’s not just the people watching; I’m kind of a sponge for all kinds of inspiration.

Q. Tell me about your style and rock and roll influence?
It evolved over time, really creating my own style and always being interconnected with the music thing.  My clothes are really overall not so rock and roll; it’s what I call ‘the magic’, we sell to Wall Street guys to guys that just want to be stylish, classic guys that want a little twist. I think guys who have a little bit of a creative bone in them, love things that have great details, great fabrics, great leathers and great fits. I think those same guys care about their car and their audio system and their computer and their home and that type of thing in the same way.

We do so many different things and then we sell to rock stars and it’s cool.

A lot of them are either my icons growing up and some of them are young guys that I’ve just met recently that love what we do and it’s always amazing to have those kind of people love what you do. I feel blessed in that I’ve somehow been able to marry the music and … my two big passions besides my family, music and fashion together in a very organic way.

Q. Tell us about John Varvatos Records?
This year I started a record label with Universal Music and Republic Records and my thought process in starting it was that I felt that especially in rock and roll but in music in general that the world today is all about pop music and that I believe that there’s a lot of good music that wasn’t being heard and what could I do to use my brand and name and use my passion for music to help some of these artists.

The first artist that we signed was already somebody that was already massive but wasn’t really as rock and roll but has rock and roll roots was Zack Brown Band. Zack called me about wanting to talk to me about what I was doing with my label because he loved my brand and what it stood for and he felt maybe together we could reach a larger audience because I knew that Zack also was big in country but also as a rock star underneath some of those country songs and everything and it shows very much we’re a part of that.

That was the first thing and then we just put out a record in September called “The Hollywood Vampires” which we’re doing for all the profits got to Music Cares and that’s Johnny Depp and Alice Cooper and Paul McCartney and Joe Walsh and Brian Johnson from ACDC and Dave Grohl and so many people that did in a fun album and they just got done headlining in Rock in Rio. That was a fun passion project but with the greatest artists possible.

Now my role goes with the young artists and I just this week released an album, EP by a young guy, 22 years old, his name is Andrew Watt living in LA out of New York. I think he’s a superstar, I think everybody is going to be talking about him in the next few years. He’s a rock star but the last few years since he was actually 17 or 18 he’s been the lead guitar player and band leader for Justin Bieber and Cody Simpson. He understands the pop world even though he’s a rock guy and he’s an amazing songwriter and guitarist.

He’s a protégé. He’s the first young artist that we just put out and I’m so excited about him.

Then I have another young artist that we’re just about ready to drop an album of out of Nashville called Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown, very different and another rock and roll band but another amazing, passionate group of guys that just have the … again when I use the word ‘protégé’ I use it very thoughtfully. These guys are just incredible. Tyler Bryant has been written about since he was 14 or 15 in everything from Rolling Stone to People Magazine.

He’s this young guitar player that was a protégé and now we’re ready to take him to the next level. I think he’s been on tour with people like ZZ Top and Jeff Beck. They were touring the world and now he’s ready to do something special that isn’t old, classic rock but it’s modern rock and that type of thing and I’m excited that we have him be part of our label.
Then I signed Amos Lee who’s already an established artist, he’s had number one songs before and he’s a great guy. He came to me through a bit of the Zack Brown connection. He’s in the studio this fall working on a new album as well. I love our label already because I think it’s very democratic. If I found the right soul artist or jazz artist I’d love to do them as well because to me it’s only just about great music.

It’s fun working with these young guys because we all have so much of a connection. I’m much older than them but they don’t think about me as this old guy. They think of me as one of them which is really fun and it’s also stimulating to be around it.

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