New View of Varvatos: Men’s Wear Designer Said Eyeing Women’s

John Varvatos, who has built a cult following in men’s wear, is said to be readying a women’s apparel line, with sources placing the debut for...

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John Varvatos

Photo By WWD Staff

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Photo By WWD Staff

WWD Image

Photo By WWD Staff

NEW YORK — John Varvatos, who has built a cult following in men’s wear, is reportedly about to take the plunge into women’s apparel.

Industry sources said he plans to launch a women’s collection on the New York runways in September for spring 2004. Varvatos, who just returned from showing his men’s wear collection in Milan, declined comment on Monday.

According to sources, Michael Ward, most recently one of the designers of Etcetera, a division of Carlisle Collection and before that a designer of Anne Klein 2, will work with Varvatos on the design of the women’s collection. Ward couldn’t be reached for comment.

It is expected that Varvatos’ women’s collection would compete with such lines as Donna Karan New York, Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein.

Varvatos’ company is a division of Nautica Enterprises and he is part of its eight-member board. As reported, he is one of two board members whom Barington Cos., a firm that invests in companies it believes to be undervalued and underperforming, wants to unseat at Nautica’s annual shareholders’ meeting July 8. The other is Charles Scherer, managing partner of Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP, Nautica’s law firm. Barington wants to replace them with James Mitarontonda and William Fox. Nautica has said it is talking to potential suitors about selling the company, and VF Corp. has reportedly emerged as a front-runner in its desire to buy Nautica.

However, Varvatos’ employment contract with Nautica includes change-of-control payments to him from any new owner, according to a research note by Virginia Genereux, an analyst at Merrill Lynch. In addition, if Nautica chairman and chief executive officer Harvey Sanders is no longer with the company, the Varvatos brand must be sold or spun off, and Varvatos himself may choose to be paid 10 percent of the brand’s net income as long as he is ceo, or receive a lump sum payment of two times the brand’s net income for three years, not to exceed $50 million.

A darling of the press, Varvatos showed his first men’s collection in the fall of 2000. From the start, the collection, which included accessories and footwear, was enthusiastically endorsed by retailers and the press. Dressing such celebrities as Adrien Brody, Brad Pitt, Bruce Springsteen and Brandon Fraser, Varvatos made a name for himself with his sexy and masculine men’s wear, softly constructed blazers, signature detailing, and textured sweaters and knits. The Varvatos men’s collection consists of sportswear, tailored clothing, leather accessories, and footwear. He produces his entire collection in Italy and made his European runway debut in Florence in January 2002.
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