John Varvatos: The Dark Rebel Designer On His New Fragrance & Favourite Renegades
Talking everything from Miley Cyrus to Paul Weller with JV…
The last time we spoke to John Varvatos, he was preparing to launch his flagship London store, with a typically rock ‘n’ roll party soundtracked by The Hives rocking out in the basement gig space. A true champion of music, the more rebellious the better, it made sense that our next meeting would be to launch his latest fragrance: Dark Rebel.
Created – as always – with connoisseur Rodrigo Flores-Roux, the latest addition to the John Varvatos cabinet brings light through darkness, as the designer himself explains better than anyone else.
MTV Style: The new fragrance is called Dark Rebel. What made you want to go darker at this particular time?
John Varvatos: I was in Detroit, because we opened a store there, and it’s kind of a dark city too. When we had our opening I was so taken aback by the whole city, and what it’s going through, and all the darkness that it’s had. We had this thought of when darkness comes to light, because the sun was rising over the river, amongst all the beautiful buildings. It felt like a new day for the city, so a lot of it was inspired by that grittiness, and the tougher side of it that I grew up in. My family is still there and the more time I spent there, there was just something about the dark mixed with the light, that made me start talking to Rodrigo about it. I felt like we needed a moodier fragrance for night.
MTV Style: Yes, because your last fragrance [Artisan Acqua] was so beachy…
John: And that was a complete opposite for us, because we didn’t have a fragrance that was windblown, and felt like the sea air. That was a special one for us as well. I don’t know where we’re going to go from here, but I’m not too worried about it, we’re pretty happy where we are.
MTV Style: With the reflection of that rebellious spirit this time, who for you is your perfect rebel right now?
John: You know, every generation has their own, though right now there are actually more girls that are rebellious. Miley Cyrus. There are a lot of young musicians who are influenced by something else, but I like to look at artists that create their own paths, they don’t want to be throwbacks.
On my record label I have a young guy called Andrew Watt, who is a rebel that we have; he’s not a household name yet, but I believe he will be. I started the label this past year with a lot of artists I’m really turned on by and they’re all rebels. They’re the ones who want to walk to their own beat. Even with photography, they can tell you what they love, but they don’t want to look like that. They don’t want to sound like Led Zeppelin or Guns N’ Roses. They want to do their own thing.
MTV Style: And everything’s felt quite poppy of late, so it’s nice to have a resurgence of that…
John: Yeah, we had a band called Badflower play at a fragrance event recently, and they’re so unbelievable. They reminded me of the rebelliousness of Nirvana. They had never even been to New York before, but I think it was the first time anyone in the audience had felt the rebelliousness and aggressiveness that was even close to Kurt Cobain. Musically he didn’t sound like Kurt Cobain, but the whole aura in the room felt like that, like there was danger.
MTV Style: You’re working with Paul Weller again, who did your campaign back in 2012; what is it about Paul that makes you want to keep working with him?
John: I think he’s one of the greatest songwriters, musical icons and artists ever. When you think of someone who walks to their own beat, Paul was in The Jam, and then he got tired of it and decided to do something different with The Style Council. His style looked different too, but then he got tired of that, and started his solo career. For me he’s the most stylish British musician of the last 30 years. Whether he’s wearing a T-shirt and a pair of jeans, or a suit, he just cares about all the details. He’s his own guy.