An interview with John Varvatos

187437432 1024x652 An interview with John Varvatos

I know I told everybody that I’ll be starting a coats/jackets series this week, but I wanted to first share with you an interesting thing that happened to me last week.

A couple weeks ago, I got an invite to attend a party John Varvatos was holding over at his SF store on Geary St. It was dedicated to the launch of his new book, Rock in Fashion, which is a really cool photo-laden coffee table book showcasing the fashion of famous rock & roll artists. If you didn’t know already, John Varvatos is a huge fan of rock & roll, and most his designs are inspired by the genre. Oh, and if I have to go even further back, John Varvatos used to be the head designer at Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, and now owns his own label.

Anyhow, I had the opportunity to sit down with the man himself for about 15-20 minutes last week to chat about anything I wanted. To be honest, I didn’t really prepare questions ahead of time, so I basically ended up asking him about things I was genuinely curious about- things I wanted to share with you guys, in case you’re interested in hearing about them.

187437424 1024x786 An interview with John Varvatos

So the first question I asked him was about trends, and how he approaches them. Does he take notice of trends happening in the space, and design his pieces to follow those trends, but also add a bit of his own twist? Or perhaps he is intentional about creating trends for others to follow?

Turns out that he hardly ever pays attention to trends. He said he just doesn’t have the time or patience for it anymore. The only thing he really pays attention to is the silhouette of today’s pieces. He mentioned that our eyes shift to enjoying different types of fits from time to time, and he needs to keep notice of that. For example, everything is now slimmer, more cut to the body, and he thinks of that when creating his clothes. Other than that, he doesn’t bother with it.

He did say that sometimes, his designs turn out to become trends in the marketplace more widely (apparently he created the laceless Converse shoe). When he realizes that his stuff is being overdone, he makes it a point to stop development of those type of pieces, and revisit them years down the line.

Second, I asked John about what he actually does, now that he’s the name of the brand. Does he involve himself in the business-side of things? Just be a figurehead? What exactly does he do?

John told me that he literally spends 90% of his time in the studio, designing. Sketching out pieces and seeing how his clothing looks on models. All the business stuff? His CEO handles it. The other 10% of John’s time is spent being the figurehead for the brand, doing PR.

I was actually really glad to hear this, since usually, these brands just rely on someone else to do the actual designing. It was great to know John Varvatos still has a hand in everything John Varvatos (the brand) actually creates. I’m a fan.

Lastly, I asked him how he deals with creating pieces that work for all body styles. I’m not the biggest man in the world, but I still fit into this stuff quite well. Six feet four guys also fit well into his stuff.

He said this was a huge challenge, but they think about this stuff all the time. They purposefully create pieces that will work for some folks, but not for others, and sometimes they make their clothing in a way that would flatter a shorter man just as well as it would flatter a taller man.

He also uses very realistic models on his clothing, and does everything he possibly can to make everyone happy. I personally think this is still a mystery to me seeing as how many different types of body types there are, but he seems to be doing a good job.

187437420 1024x682 An interview with John Varvatos

There’s Mick Rock with John Varvatos

As a side note, midway through the interview, famous rock photographer Mick Rock joined in the conversation, and damn, that man is a full-haired rockstar. At the ripe age of 65, the man was still sporting a very trendy distressed denim jacket, shaggy hair down to his shoulders, and a thick British accent that made it seem like I was talking to a member from the Beatles. What a boss. It’s crazy to have been in front of two guys who have worked with Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Rolling Stones, you name it.

Anyhow, it was a great party and interview, and I’m glad to have talked to the man himself. I’ll be checking out John Varvatos pieces more and more as I continue my fall shopping. Big thanks to those that allowed this to happen.

PS: I asked John what artist I need to listen to now, seeing as how classic rock is being faded away, and he told me without a doubt, Gary Clark Jr. is the new guy on the block. The next Jimmy Page or Eric Clapton, he says.

My Fall Wish List

It’s wishlist time. I’ve started to buy clothing again so there are a ton of fall/winter items on my list that I’ve been drooling over. Also, the fact that it’s getting pretty cold in San Francisco (oh what a wimp I’ve become…), means that most of these items are actually relevant again.

For anyone who has mounds of cash just sitting around, please feel free to buy me any of the pieces below:

John Varvatos Star Topcoat

 8355608 My Fall Wish List

Source: Nordstrom

There is something so incredibly classy about topcoats. They are wonderful complements to a formal or semi-formal getup, and keep you really warm and toasty. I own a topcoat already, but have been thinking about upgrading, since topcoats are very much investment pieces. I came across this one from John Varvatos on the Nordstrom website recently, and really liked the simple design. Can’t really attest for the quality just yet, but I may visit the store to see if they have one on the rack to try on. Will report back.

Hey and if you’re doubtful about getting a topcoat, if anything, Don Draper wears them.

Bloomingdale’s Ribbed Knit Beanie

 My Fall Wish List

Source: Bloomingdales

One of my buddies recently showed me his Prada knit cap, and I was thoroughly impressed with how it looked. It was charcoal in color, made with very fine wool, and extremely simple in design, like the above picture. I checked online to see how much the thing cost, and unfortunately, it was priced at over $200.

I’m all about buying quality but $200 for a hat was quite a stretch for me so I found a suitable substitute at Bloomingdales and am contemplating picking it up. I mean they say the head is where you hold the most heat, so I have to keep that heat in during the colder months, am I right?

Moncler Puffer Jacket

NMN1UAL mx My Fall Wish List

Source: Neiman Marcus

I cheated a bit on this one as I’ve recently bought a similar model to this particular jacket due to a sale.

To be honest, I used to be kind of against puffer jackets, and still am to some extent, but some of the models that Moncler has been releasing have really caught my eye. You retain the warmth of a puffer jacket, but the fit doesn’t make you look like a marshmallow, and the attention to detail is just fantastic.

There are a couple downsides though. First, I live in SF, so it rarely gets cold enough to wear this thing. These jackets don’t just keep you warm, they make you melt inside if it’s not cold enough outside. Second, Moncler is outrageous with pricing. The cheapest models are barely sub-$1K, and the more expensive ones are ludicrously expensive.

Ralph Lauren Merino Wool Sweater

 My Fall Wish List

Source: Ralph Lauren

I tried one of these Polo Ralph Lauren sweaters on last week at Bloomingdales, and absolutely loved the feel and look of it. Not only did it fit snug to my body, but the colors were beautifully vibrant, and there was no annoying polo logo on the front. Again, the only thing stopping me was the price, as each one of these is $125. The sweater is actually quite thin, so it made me wonder if this was something worth investing in.

I may still end up getting it, but it will hurt the wallet.

So there is my wish list this November. God, do I love fall/winter for menswear.

Quick looks & pleasing everybody

I was tossing and turning in bed the other day, unable to fall sleep. In situations like this, most normal people would read a book, count sheep, or just idly lay in their beds till the inevitable sleep haze engulfed their conscience.

Well, I’m a bit weird, and probably not very normal. Thus, as a sleep remedy, I decided to go into my closet and start randomly taking pieces out, just to put them together in different combinations that I thought might work out. Also, I felt compelled to add ties to the mix as well.

It kind of worked, as I was so tired of putting on and taking off clothes that I eventually plopped on my bed and immediately fell asleep.

The outcome is below. And yes, I am actually wearing pants.

mGYcx Quick looks & pleasing everybody

The hunter’s look.

Jacket: Barbour | Vest: Barbour | Tie: Ovadia & Sons | Shirt: Brooks Brothers

gci7r Quick looks & pleasing everybody

The formal look.

Jacket: Black Fleece | Pocket Square: Nordstrom | Shirt: Brooks Brothers | Tie Bar: Thetiebar | Tie: Theory

SFXsI Quick looks & pleasing everybody

The ultra-hyperextended neck look.

Jacket: John Varvatos Collection | Shirt: Black Fleece | Tie: Drake’s

Fiknf Quick looks & pleasing everybody

The cold day layering look.

Coat: Hugo Boss | Knitwear: Banana Republic | Shirt: Black Fleece | Tie: Theory

GkwgP Quick looks & pleasing everybody

The overcoat with suit look… or as I like to call it: blue steel look.

Coat: Banana Republic | Jacket: John Varvatos Collection | Shirt: Ben Sherman | Tie: Ben Sherman

Zqy0X Quick looks & pleasing everybody

The Looper-ish look.

Jacket: Theory | Shirt: Armani Collezioni | Tie: Thetiebar

tSoEK Quick looks & pleasing everybody

The blue, blue, blue, and blue layer look.

Coat: Black Fleece | Jacket: Levi’s | Shirt: Brooks Brothers | Tie: Ovadia & Sons

My first thought was to put these photos on reddit, mainly because I was curious to see which outfits vibed well with the huge crowd over there, and which didn’t. I put the album up on reddit in the morning, walked away from the computer for about an hour, and then revisited its status shortly afterward.

Apparently the album became quite popular in that hour, ultimately hitting the first spot on /r/malefashionadvice, receiving thousands of up-votes, and getting more comments than I could read.

Turns out that pretty much every single look was simultaneously criticized and praised, showing how incredibly different peoples’ tastes are. Some people said my Barbour look was the best, while others thought it was the worst. Some argued that leather jackets should never go with ties, others said leather jackets looked best with ties. Let’s just say there was a lot of noise, and it taught me a valuable lesson.

The lesson is that you aren’t going to please everybody with your look, no matter how great it is. Sure there are rules that you should follow to look better overall (for example, getting things that are more fitted to your body), but even then, you just aren’t going to win everyone’s approval, as everyone’s tastes are different.

I put together 7 very different outfits, and for each outfit I got hundreds of different reactions. At first, I took each comment constructively, learning from what people had to say. Later on though, all I ended up really caring about was my own opinion, especially after seeing how much contradiction there was about what people thought was right and what people thought was wrong.

I think the best thing is for you to feel confident in the clothes that you wear, and present your unique style to the world expecting nothing in return. Sure, positive reinforcement may help you feel better, but ultimately, I think the most attractive thing about someone’s style is how they own their look. The swagger and confidence they have in wearing what they are wearing. The great thing is that no one can help you own your look, only you can.

Anyhow, sorry to go on a rant there, but I hope I was able to at least provide you with some ideas for outfits. Oh, and just kidding about the pants comment I made above. Commando all the way.

Jackets, my favorite

I’d have to say my favorite article of clothing is the jacket. Always has been, likely always will be.

Why do I have such a fascination with jackets? Because they not only keep me warm, but they also are the most noticeable article of clothing one puts on. I mean seriously, a jacket goes on TOP of everything else, covering any clothes you are already wearing. It’s also one of the only articles you can take off or put on multiple times in a day. It allows you to effortlessly change your look whether you’re outside or inside. Make sure you have an awesome one in your wardrobe.

Here are some jackets that I personally like, all different styles:

jacket brands Jackets, my favorite

Just quick comments on the photos above.

Trenches make you feel boss, and will never go out of style. This is especially true for Burberry , since they invented trenches. Stick with tans, greys, blacks and navys, and make sure to find the right fit, since they’ll last you a lifetime.

Parkas, like the wings + horns one above, are extremely versatile, and can be dressed up or down effortlessly. They protect you from the rain, and are quite utilitarian, with the pockets and all.

Matt Bomer from White Collar pulls this jacket off awesomely (is that a word?). I’ve always had a hard time finding leather jackets that fit me well, but the day I do, I hope it looks like the one above, simple and slim.

Lastly, I think John Varvatos makes some really creative, and quality jackets in his mainline collection. If you’ve got some $, or rather, $$$, I would take a peak; you might find one that sings to you.

In terms of brand recommendations for jackets, it really depends on the price range you’re looking at. Jackets can get astronomically expensive, because designers know they can charge a hefty fine on them. They usually are constructed with thicker fabrics, have a lot more variance in design, and are bought more sparingly, thus people are willing to splurge more.

I recommend spending a bare minimum of $50 on a jacket. I don’t think that’s unreasonable, because it will last you a long time if you buy the right one.

At the $50-$100 range, I would probably recommend Land’s End or Banana Republic with a coupon (easily accessible). Many snobs will gawk at anything from GAP Co., due to their mass production and inconsistency of quality. However, I think that you can get some great jackets here that are stylish and will last. I have a jacket from BR that looks like the parka above, and I love it. People compliment this jacket all the time, and I got it for around $80 bucks.

At the $100-$200 mark, I like Topman and Diesel. I am going to say that these two recommendations are mainly based on look, rather than quality. Not saying that the quality is bad by any means, but just know that I put a bit of weight towards design. I also have to plug in The North Face & Patagonia, where it’s function rather than fashion.

When we get to the $200-$400 range, this is where I think one should spend to get a quality jacket that will last. Brooks Brothers and Polo Ralph Lauren have very high quality jackets, and have obviously been in the business forever. In this range, my highest rec goes to Barbour since they make a damn solid jacket, and you’ll notice the quality is exceptional.

Between $400-$1000, many jackets start to look absolutely amazing. However, you are now heading into brand name snobbery territory, so watch out!  Brooks Brothers Black Fleece and Ralph Lauren Black Label are two of my favorites.

$1000+: My favorite looking jackets come from John Varvatos Collection, Dior Homme, and Paul Smith Main Line. All three make very sleek, trim, European style jackets that I think can elevate your look. Be careful, as clearly you’re spending a lot for the brand name, rather than the pure functionality of the jacket. Hey, but if you have the cash, why not right?

I’d recommend picking up a solid jacket for the fall. Whether you buy a parka, trench, leather, or wool jacket, find one that helps identify your image. It will get noticed.