John Varvatos: “I’ve Always Wanted To Do A Campaign With Jack White”
Catching up with the US design legend as he launches new fragrance Artisan Acqua and his first European store in London…
By Jennifer Lynn
“I really didn't know Ringo before, but he has been a big customer of ours for many years,” says John Varvatos, speaking of his Fall 2014 campaign Starr. “This year during the Grammy Awards he played with Paul McCartney for the first time since the Beatles stopped. I was watching and he was wearing our clothes, and I knew he wore the clothes, but it was so great to see.”
In London to launch both his mammoth Conduit Street store – the brand’s first in Europe – and his new fragrance Artisan Acqua, John speaks with great passion about his design house and its aforementioned new Fall campaign, #PeaceRocks. Benefitting The Ringo Starr Peace & Love Fund, through the sale of an exclusive T-shirt and donations from the company for every peace sign selfie tagged #PeaceRocks on Instagram, Twitter, Vine and Facebook, the legendary Beatle was more than happy to have his little turn on the catwalk.
“We have talked about Ringo for years and we have always said, ‘It's a Beatle, they've never done one commercial thing, we should go out and ask Ringo.’ We asked him and he immediately said yes,” explains John. “But then he said, ‘I have one question: are they sure they have the right Ringo?'
“When I met up with him in LA he gave me a big hug and said, ‘You know I am such a big fan, but what took you so long to ask me? I've always wanted to be a fashion model!’ He is a great guy, he's got so much energy - we had a party for him a few weeks ago to celebrate his 73rd birthday. The guy is never serious, you know, he’s just always joking.”
Shot by rock photographer Danny Clinch, the black and white campaign images show Ringo sitting on a throne, flashing his own peace sign. Looking far more youthful than his 73 years, he models one of John’s signature leather jackets, every inch the rock God.
Nestled in the record store slash gig space in the basement of John Varvatos London, from our surroundings it’s clear that the US designer – who famously had Kiss crash his runway show at Milan Menswear Week last year – is a massive music fan. Previous collaborators include Paul Weller, Miles Kane, Green Day, Iggy Pop and Alice Cooper, but has a rockstar ever turned down the opportunity to star in a JV campaign?
“I’ve always wanted to do Jack White and we’re friendly with Jack, and still to this day he says ‘I love your brand, I love your clothes, I wear them proudly, but I don’t think I’m there. I don’t think I can do that,’” says John. “Will it happen? Next time I run into him I’ll ask him again. I like that Jack’s his own guy, he does his own thing, he’s such an odd guy in the industry, but in a special way in that he walks to his own beat with everything. That’s cool at the same time, you know?”
Speaking of walking to his own beat, it’s a pathway John has chosen to go down with his fragrance collection. “The Artisan series started with Rodrigo Flores-Roux, he works with Givaudan, and he’s been working with me since my first fragrance in like 2002, 2003, whenever we started,” says John. “When we were thinking about Artisan Acqua I wanted to do a fragrance that reminded me of going to the beach.
“It started with the juice and what we wanted to say, then when it came to the bottle I wanted it to look like it had just floated up on the sand, with the hand weave. I had some old bottles that I found in the south of France, I don’t know if they were wine at one point, but I used them as my reference point. The packaging draws people in, then they smell the juice, and they fall in love.”
Having turned his hand to everything from menswear to fragrance, mentoring on US TV show Fashion Star with Jessica Simpson and Nicole Richie, and maintaining the longest running collaboration in the footwear industry with Converse, what’s next for Mr Varvatos?
“I would definitely do a women’s fragrance,” he says confidently. “We were really young when we did womenswear, back in 2004, and it was drowning us. We took a break and never went back to it.
“What I really want to do over the next couple years is come up with capsule collections, because women love our boots, they love our leathers and they feel like they can’t get them from other people. I want it to be the heart and soul of who we are.”
John Varvatos London is located at 12-13 Conduit Street, W1S 2XQ, while new fragrance Artisan Acqua is available now from Debenhams, priced at £60 for 125ml.