John Varvatos on Urban Romantics, and the Death of the Uniform

John Varvatos closed New York Fashion Week: Men’s with an intimate, exclusive 140-seat show in the basement of the Roxy Hotel in TriBeCa Thursday night, where a handful of fashion’s most prestigious eyes witnessed a gorgeous collection of tailored gray wools and cottons with old-school detailing.

The show, “Urban Romantic,” blended a timeless, historic feel with modern silhouettes and grooming. Squished into a corner of the Django bar underneath the Roxy, one almost felt they were watching European princes strutting through the dungeons of their palace as the models glided past.

In attendance were all of Men’s Week’s A-list, including Colton Haynes, Eric Rutherford, and Kellan Lutz.

Check out the full show here.

We were able to chat with the famed menswear designer before the show and catch his thoughts on the collection and the current state of fashion.

Can you tell me about the collection, what inspired it?

I usually don’t have names, but I’m calling it the Urban Romantic. This was inspired by my love for the south of France, and these romantic areas that I develop things in, and how that plays into such an urban environment as New York, or London, or Paris, or any global big city. And I think there’s young guys who love the modernity and the urban-ness of living in a city, between all the arts and opportunities the city gives. But they also have this passion for old world things. And the romance. And that’s my guy, and I wanted to talk about that guy who loves texture, and detail, and finesse. But still wants to be contemporary, and wants the fits to be contemporary. 

Are there specific images that inspired you?

The images we had up on the wall were really about details, whether it was fabric texture or button treatment… we have a fencing jacket, but it’s done in a modern way. We’ve been around for 16 years. We have our own history. So it’s about, how are those things new to my history? Your history evolves every season, so what’s the evolution? Last spring we were pretty Rolling Stones rock ‘n’ roll, and this is very different. It’s more elegant, and romantic, and less obvious in a way. I think there’s something about the finesse of what I call Old World Sensibility, a finesse that I sometimes feel is missing in today’s very cut-and-dried manufacturing of things.

So you’ve talked about how you’ve changed in a year. How’s the fashion industry changed since last year, in your eyes?

I think the whole world has changed. We read all these things about people’s business being difficult. We use e-commerce. The urban guy that I’m talking about is not only online searching things, but he’s online shopping. And it’s changed how people value their time, to a degree. People can say, “I’m a very busy person,” and at 11 o’clock at night they can go on to John Varvatos’ site and see something, and think, “Wow, these are great,” and buy them.

So androgynous fashion is really creeping onto men’s runways. Have you been doing any of that?

Our guy has always been a pretty masculine guy – gay, straight, whatever. But there’s always been a softness to what we do anyway, and you’ll see that in this collection. Because there’s a masculinity, but there’s also the softness of the detail, and the texture. It’s not this whole athleisure thing. I look everywhere, and I see it so much, and I think, “Is that all? Is that all there is?” I still like to dress up! These guys, they love dressing up. They love getting their first suit. But they don’t want to look like their dad. They want to do it themselves.

If you were to look at today’s style influencers, is there anyone you admire? Or are you over all these young people?

We have a lot of those guys who shop with us, and I’m intrigued by how they put things together. It’s cool. Creating your own personality, and not worrying about the trend. Making it yours. I’ve said from the first show, “The uniform is dead.” Our guy isn’t into the uniform, doesn’t care about the big logos. He cares more about creating his own style that says something to his personality and to his character.

Is this season something you can see yourself wearing?

I love these clothes – they’re forever. They’re not about a moment, a time and place. You pull it out of your closet ten years from now, and you think, “Why haven’t I worn this in five years? It looks cooler today!” This collection wasn’t about a moment, it was about a sensibility. No matter where I’ve ever been in my life or career, I’ve loved these clothes. But I love to put the edge with it. The right boot, and the right accessories, and the cool scarf. Because that makes it your own. Menswear, it’s a one-button, or two-button, or polo, or pant, but we’re not playing with proportion in the same way as women’s, as much as we want to.


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