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John Varvatos Talks His Collection and How Men Have 'Turned Into Women'

John Varvatos Talks His Collection and How Men Have 'Turned Into Women'

John Varvatos
Ashley Sky Walker

The iconic fashion designer talks about his emotional investment in NYFWM, and why men care about fashion more than ever.

John Varvatos at his S/S 2016 Runway Show at NYFWM | Photo by Ashley Sky Walker

New York Fashion Week: Men's has been an historic event, a milestone in menswear and symbol of where the fashion world stands today in terms of gender politics. The spectacular shows -- ranging from Thom Browne's mirror-filled presentation to Richard Chai's star-studded catwalk -- have proven that men's clothing is no longer a sidenote, but deserving of celebration all its own. To close the uber-chic week, the CFDA has secured one of the biggest designers of all time to debut a never-before-seen collection exclusively on New York's runways: the rock 'n' roll-inspired icon John Varvatos.

We chatted with the designer about his new menswear collection and, more specifically, about NYFWM itself, and the rapidly changing social attitude men have towards the way they dress.

Out: Talk about the collection, and your inspiration behind it. Some key pieces?

John Varvatos: The inspiration this season was loosely, mid-'70s, when a lot of the British musicians were migrating to Southern California. Artists like Fleetwood Mac, who were originally British, and Led Zeppelin, and the Rolling Stones, they were all going there, were falling in love with the Laurel Canyon area, and the music scene, and the bohemian lifestyle. We had already moved from the hippieness, and all of that, and into a much more sophisticated dandy kind of thing. It was still dressed up, there, but it had a bohemian sensibility. And the music also took on that sensibility, where the Rolling Stones did songs like "Wild Horses," that had a more country kind of thing, and Led Zeppelin did things that were mellower. And so the clothes had a bit of an effect on there, and so you got this English dandy kind of thing, but looser. It runs through some of the initial looks of the show. Less rigid than real dandy, you know? You start to get the boldness of the stripes, and you start to get the ease of some of the American influences in there, throughout. There's a lot of stripes in the show.

Talk more about the stripes.

Everybody's wearing solids. Solid this, solid that. Everything's cyclical. So we go through times of stripes and checks and this and that, and it's getting a little boring, because these stripes are not necessarily for every guy, but there are things that are definitely in here like that. The idea of doing a show isn't just about what you want to do for every guy. You want to make a statement. To say, like...

To experiment?

Exactly. Reach a little bit more, push a little bit. Don't get stuck in your rut. And it just makes you think. So, you know, it's everything from fine tailoring that's done with slubby silks, to military influence type of pieces that are all done by hand. We did a lot of abstract animal jacquards and prints. And treating it a little looser. Mixing with a linen T-shirt. And a little scarf, and that kind of thing. Imperfectly perfect. A little casual elegance. Very rock 'n' roll, with a leopard scarf and the chunky boots. And we did chunkier shoes that had more weight to them, to balance the lightness of the fabrics, and that kind of thing.


This is the first New York Fashion Men's week. You're arguably the biggest name here to present a runway show, and you normally present in Milan. What propelled you to support this new week?

Well, I'm an American designer. I started in New York. I showed here for seven years, but at the Women's Week. So it was never the right time. It was always way off the calendar. I wanted to come back and help support, and make this thing work. It was more emotional than it was business driven, because Milan is our kind of global cornerstone for the rest of the world's business that we do. So it really was just something that felt like the right thing to do. It really boiled down to, like, it felt good. It felt like the right thing to do. I don't -- I haven't seen much of what's going on this week, so I don't really have a sense of what it's been like.

It's been good -- a lot of ready to wear.

We didn't want come and do a runway show and do -- they can come in the showroom and get that, too. That wasn't the idea: We wanted to tell the story, and understanding in the story that there are things that make you think and make you change. But we didn't want to do just a Broadway show, where you just do all these costumes and you don't produce them either. Because we're producing this, you know?

Where is menswear going in the future, and what's propelling men to take more of an interest in their own personal style?

They care about it now. That's the biggest shift. They care about it: They care about their grooming, their whole personality. They care more about their style than they care about fashion. They care about how it reflects in their personality and how they present themselves, and that's changed drastically.


Because guys have turned into women. They've got more shoes than women have. No, they've really delved into it. The real reason it's changed is because the world has gotten small. And globally everything is instantaneous. We're constantly hit by what's going on everywhere, from social media to online to television to movies, so it's coming at you all the time. And in music... it's intriguing. It's intriguing to follow people with their character, too.

Would you say recent victories in gay rights are propelling the change as well?

Absolutely. No doubt about it. Guys have, there's a statement there, too. It's important.

Watch the John Varvatos S/S 16 runway show streaming here.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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