John Varvatos

Born: Detroit, USA, 1955

John Varvatos began his fashion career at Ralph Lauren working for Polo in 1983. He stayed at Polo until 1990 when he moved to Calvin Klein. Appointed as head of menswear design, Varvatos saw the launch of the men’s collection and the CK brand.

Varvatos returned to Ralph Lauren in 1995, where he was appointed Head of Menswear Design for all of the Polo Ralph Lauren brands. Varvatos created the Polo Jeans Company while working there.  After 13 years behind the scenes at two major classic American houses, Varvatos decided to branch out on his own. At the end of 1999 he started his eponymous fashion house, debuting with his first men’s collection at New York Fashion Week the following year.

In June 2000, Varvatos was awarded the Council of Fashion Designers of America ‘Perry Ellis Award for New Talent’. Four months later he opened his first freestanding store in Soho, New York. The same year Varvatos received the ‘Footwear Launch of the Year’ award which was followed by the CFDA ‘Menswear Designer of the Year Award’ in 2001.

In 2001 Varvatos collaborated with Converse designing a limited edition’ All Stars’. A year later Varvatos showed his collections in Italy. Over the next two years additional stores opened in West Hollywood, California and Las Vegas.

In 2004 the first male fragrance was released, which was followed with a skincare line. 2005 saw the beginning of advertising campaigns featuring iconic rock legends with Bryan Adams being the first artist.

The CFDA acknowledged Varvatos again in 2005 with the ‘Menswear Designer of the Year’ award. In 2006 Varvatos launched the Star USA line, a lifestyle brand aimed at a younger consumer.  2006 also saw Varvatos and Converse launch Converse by John Varvatos, a lifestyle collection for men. The collaboration marked the first time Converse launched ready-to-wear clothing in its 100 year history. The same year Varvatos’s own brand launched an eyewear collection and a second male fragrance. In 2008 the first female fragrance launched as well watch collections. This was followed by a succession of further fragrance releases.

In 2010 Varvatos designed limited edition T-shirts for the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards. The same year the brand launched an accessory line and celebrated the Company’s ten year anniversary with a campaign featuring a collage of artists that have taken part in previous campaigns.

John Varvatos is known for his casual suiting and untidy tailored clothes. He has previously commented; ‘I try to do clothes for guys who want to look masculine but who don’t want to have to worry about looking like a fashion victim every time they walk out of the house.’

In 2012, John Varvatos joined the celebrity mentors on NBC’s Fashion Star, a reality competition series that aimed to discover the next big brand in fashion. He also saw the release of a limited edition Chrysler 300 under his name in 2013. The following year, he partnered with Republic label’s Monte Lipman to launch John Varvatos Records, with the Zac Brown Band as the first signing.

Varvatos attributes his early fascination with rock ‘n’ roll as the inspiration behind his interest in fashion. The ad campaigns for his main collection have featured prominent musicians and bands, including Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper, Velvet Revolver, Chris Cornell, Dave Matthews, The Roots, and Green Day.

In May 2020, John Varvatos filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but he later founded OTD in 2021.

Music plays a significant role in the brand’s philanthropic efforts, supporting causes like the Save the Music Foundation and holding an annual Stuart House benefit. In one of their advertising campaigns, Ringo Starr modeled for the fall/winter collection, and the associated charitable initiative benefited The Ringo Starr Peace and Love Fund in support of the David Lynch Foundation.

John Varvatos previously partnered with Converse in 2001 to create a line of high-end sneakers. While the partnership has since ended, Varvatos now produces a “Bootleg” line with a similar Chuck Taylor style.

John Varvatos Biography

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Written by Saxony Dudbridge

Saxony Dudbridge was one of the first contributors to the Catwalk Yourself project, Saxony studies International Fashion Marketing and she is responsible for our great History and Designers Biographies sections.

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