As We See It

Five minutes with John Varvatos

The American style icon on rock, Ralph Lauren and Converse sneakers

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John Varvatos store inside Forum Shops
Photo: Erik Kabik/Retna
Sam Glaser

It’s hard to talk American fashion without mentioning John Varvatos. After helping craft powerhouse brands like Polo Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, Varvatos moved out on his own with an eponymously named company and clear focus on incorporating rock into fashion. On October 21, Varvatos hosted a party at his Forum Shops location, helping customers style their winter wardrobes while sipping Russian Standard vodka cocktails. Weekly caught up with the rock-star designer, who stole the show in a gray, suede leather trench coat.

You do a monthly Sirius XM show called Born in Detroit. Rock ’n’ roll is clearly part of your passion-set. How has rock influenced you as a designer?

Rock is part of my DNA and a huge part of my everyday life. I’d say it’s been my biggest influence outside of family. I don’t design without music. It’s an energy source—part of my engine.

Just one year after you launched the John Varvatos brand, you started a collaboration with Converse. How’d that come about?

The man himself: John Varvatos

The man himself: John Varvatos

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Get the John Varvatos look
John Varvatos offers a sophisticated, rock-inspired look. It’s all about well-conceived layering.
1. Start with a slim fit, button-front shirt or henley.
2. Layer (choose two or three) with a vest, sweater, cardigan or tie. Varvatos uses premium fabrics for ties, including cashmere and leather.
3. Top it off with a casual jacket, wool-blend sport coat, or both, like Varvatos’ show-stopping leather trench.
4. On the bottom, try slim-fit pants in wool or cotton. If you insist on denim, stick with charcoal or dark indigo color palettes.
5. Finally, step into a pair of distressed leather rock-star boots.

It’s been a highlight. They contacted me having never worked with a designer before. They had been waiting for the right one. I’ve been a fan my whole life—Converse is truly iconic. Nine years in, we’re in 40 countries. Every time I work there’s a new highlight.

What’s the next collaboration?

No more. Converse is a perfect fit, and I can’t imagine any other.

You’re celebrating the 10-year anniversary of your brand with an ad campaign featuring a collage of musical artists you’ve worked with during your career. Which two are the most quintessentially John Varvatos?

Perry Farrell and Lenny Kravitz

In your perfect world, how would you define the John Varvatos legacy?

I learned a lot from iconic American designers (like Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren). Ralph has an incredible life and style legacy. I want to be an iconic American designer, globally.

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