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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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Last Wednesday, Varvatos showed his spring 2004 collection in Milan with mixed results. A review in WWD’s sister publication DNR on Monday said Varvatos’ design aesthetic lends itself better to fall-winter than spring-summer. DNR felt that Varvatos’ oversized suit jackets didn’t fit in with the season’s shorter, sleeker proportions, but liked the designer’s elegant trousers, blood-orange sweaters and fine goat-suede city coats.

Currently, Varvatos sells his men’s wear to such accounts as Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman Men, as well as Harvey Nichols in the U.K., Seibu in Japan and Holt Renfrew in Canada.

“I think he’s the most important thing to come along in American men’s fashion in ages,” Simon Doonan, creative director of Barneys New York, told Menswear, a consumer magazine published by Fairchild Publications, last fall. “His vision is strong and masculine — not outré or provocative.” In the same issue, Dan McCampbell, vice president of men’s merchandising at Saks Fifth Avenue, said, “Varvatos brings a new modern aesthetic to men’s wear. It’s not just another European collection; it has an American viewpoint.”

Born in Detroit, Varvatos came to New York to join Polo Ralph Lauren. In 1990, he became head of men’s wear design at Calvin Klein Collection and started the CK brand, but returned to Polo in the mid-Nineties when he was named corporate senior vice president in charge of men’s wear design for all Ralph Lauren brands. He eventually left to launch his signature men’s wear line in fall 2000 with partner Nautica. Before the collection even hit stores, Varvatos was awarded the Perry Ellis Award for New Menswear Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America in June 2000. The following year, he received the CFDA’s award for Menswear Designer of the Year.

The first freestanding John Varvatos store — a 3,300-square-foot, gallery-like space — opened in SoHo here in September 2000. A second freestanding boutique opened in September 2002 in Los Angeles at the corner of Melrose and Robertson. Plans are in development to open additional John Varvatos stores in major U.S. cities, as well as for retail expansion on an international level.
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