You don’t win menswear awards on the regular—and become a mentor on NBC’s Fashion Star—without a comprehensive grasp of what looks good. And as the force of nature behind a progressive, extensive clothing line that includes everything from eyewear to jackets to ties to belts to Converse shoes, John Varvatos is a leading authority on that very subject. As Made Man’s Elements of Style kicks off, we caught up with the icon to inquire about stylishness, the show and the secrets of his success.
I think the idea of elegance is relevant for an audience that, so far, has not experienced the taste of it. Youthful elegance, therefore, is my feeling for this season, meaning youth as an attitude, not a matter of age.
MADE MAN: What is “stylish” for men these days?
JOHN VARVATOS: Dressing up is where it’s at. Find a great dark well-fitting suit—fit is everything!—add a leather jacket, dark jeans and a pair of cool boots and you are set.
MM: What are some of your favorite men’s accessories?
JV: A lightweight scarf is a great accessory to use dressed up or dressed down. It can take the place of a tie with a suit or add a bit of rock ’n’ roll to a leather jacket.
MM: Any dos or don’ts for a date?
JV: Be yourself and stick with a style that fits your personality. Pay attention to your shoes! Bad shoes are the biggest wardrobe turnoff to women.
MM: What excites you about your 2013 offerings?
JV: I think the idea of elegance is relevant for an audience that, so far, has not experienced the taste of it. Youthful elegance, therefore, is my feeling for this season, meaning youth as an attitude, not a matter of age. I mixed a sense of dress-up with touches of my very own perfect imperfection and I added a dash of the military. The juxtaposition gives a nonchalant twist, yet everything looks proper on the surface. This is a collection thought out for men who want to be dressed up but not stiff. It works from day to night, because this is the way people live and dress today.
MM: Tell us more about your latest campaign, featuring Led Zeppelin icon Jimmy Page and emerging talent Gary Clark Jr.
JV: Jimmy Page and Gary Clark Jr. are the faces of our Spring 2013 campaign—insane! Jimmy Page has been a music and fashion icon of mine since 1970. He has been a major influence and I am honored to call Jimmy a friend. Gary Clark Jr. is the real deal—amazing guitar player, singer, songwriter and friend. Having ‘The Master’ and the ‘Young Guitar-Slinger’ together in our campaign is a dream come true.
MM: What’s next for you?
JV: Lots of exciting things. We’ve got a fantastic new website with some pretty special content. My Limited Edition Chrysler 300C debuts in March. New John Varvatos stores opening in Miami, Boston, and Toronto. Fashion Star season 2 kicks off on March 8 on NBC at 8pm EST. And that’s only the first half of the year!
MM: With Fashion Star, what can we expect this time around?
JV: The design talent for season 2 is fantastic. There will be a lot of passion, emotion, and the competition is fierce! Expect to see some great clothes on the runway and in the stores.
MM: What mistakes do first‑time designers make that you could only know once you’ve been in the business a while?
JV: I guess first of all is always thinking you’re right. You can kind of get embroiled into what you’re doing and thinking that you have all the right ideas. And I think that’s the number one thing that you need to understand, that there’s an audience out there. It’s not just about what you like. There’s an audience that has to buy into it.
MM: How do you account for your success?
JV: The most important thing is to have a vision and stay true to it. Build a great team. Listen to your consumers and make sure they’re happy. Never stop learning. Be a sponge and absorb as much knowledge as possible. Passion, passion, passion! I am constantly inspired by everything that I see around me.
Editor’s note: This just in! Varvatos is partnering with luxury charity auction site Charitybuzz.com for an incredible online charity auction. Featuring once-in-a-lifetime experiences with luminaries like Varvatos, Diane Von Furstenberg and Samuel L. Jackson, the auction is open March 1 to 21. Check out Charitybuzz.com/JohnVarvatos.