Designer John Varvatos sits down with EB to discuss his rock ‘n’ roll inspirations for eyewear + design plus his detail-soaked new capsule collection with De Rigo REM

Designer John Varvatos
Photo: Laszlo Regos. Image courtesy of John Varvatos

Clad in his signature black jeans and leather moto jacket, the tall, slim Varvatos arrives at the sleek, whitewashed Manhattan photo studio.

On the agenda today: a special photo session for his sellout new limited-edition Artisan Eyewear collection with De Rigo REM—and a sit-down interview with EB.

With a notable menswear fashion design pedigree, Varvatos launched his namesake brand in 2000 after a tenure as head of menswear at Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren. In 2005, Varvatos won the CFDA Menswear Designer of the Year Award.

Today, the John Varvatos brand boasts a lineup of clothing, shoes, accessories, and eyewear (and a whole lotta luxe leather jackets), plus 26 stores globally and countless retail outlets.

Here, Varvatos chats with EB on everything from his luxe, new capsule collection with De Rigo REM to his roots in rock.

EB: What inspired your brand’s rock ’n’ roll roots?

JOHN VARVATOS: [Rock ‘n’ roll] transported me, as I grew up in a little house, about 900 square feet, with seven people. Especially when I got to around 10 or 12 years old, I put my headphones on, and the music would transport me somewhere.

I grew up in Detroit and we had Iggy and the Stooges, you know, Iggy Pop. My favorite shot of all time is them on the inside of their album cover called “Fun House.” They [wore] skinny jeans with motorcycle jackets, and they looked super sleek and cool. So, I saved up money to get my first motorcycle jacket. I wanted that look.

[Rock ‘n’ roll] is a huge part of my DNA and where I grew up and what inspired me from an energy standpoint.

EB: Do you play an instrument?

JV: I say that I play around with the guitar. I love guitars. I have a lot of collectible, vintage guitars. I love the sound of them as much as I love the beauty of them.

EB: Favorite rock-inspired details on your new eyewear capsule collection?

JV: [The frames are] all handmade in Japan, and they’re all individual. It’s by far the best thing we’ve ever done in eyewear. It’s really an artisan project.

There’s mother of pearl [detail], which is on the fretboard of the guitar. There’s the way we did the wire on the aviators, like the strings [of the guitar]. The sunburst, burnt kind of colors, those were very much like Gibson guitars and all of their spectacular woods. Even the way the rivets are done, they really emulate the fretboard on the guitar. [It’s about] being able to show the guitar detail—without being hokey about it.

And then you have the eyeglass case, which you can also use as a jewelry box. These are things that last—they feel very fashion, but also like something that transcends time. We want to keep it refined, special, and quite exclusive, without being snobby about it.

Artisan Eyewear

Artisan Eyewear Silver

EB: Key style trends we’ll see from JV in 2020?

JV: My team and I decided that—since 2020 is our 20th anniversary—we’re really going to go after the whole artisanal thing for the entire year. We’ve put a lot of finesse into the things that have made our brand, which are all of those artisanal, craftsmanship, old-world kind of things that you just don’t see people doing anymore.

EB: What new projects do you have in the works for 2020?

JV: I just launched a tequila with Nick Jonas called Villa One. It’s pretty special and made in an artisanal factory in Mexico. We put ourselves up against every blind taste test to make sure that we had the best product.

I also just launched a new fragrance with Nick called JVxNJ Silver. It’s the third fragrance we’ve done together.

For the John Varvatos 20th Anniversary, we’re working on a lot of surprises. We want to make a lot of fun noise to celebrate, in this crazy world, being around for 20 years.