From Ralph Lauren to Calvin Klein, Detroit-born designer John Varvatos went around the block before building his own fashion house on a solid foundation of old-world craftsmanship and rock and roll. A celebrity mentor on NBC’s Fashion Star reality show, he shares his best advice for finding your own style.
MF: How can a guy be stylish without looking like a fashion victim?
JV: Style is timeless. It transcends generations—it’s enduring. If you’re thinking about fashion, it’s of the moment. And that doesn’t mean that it’s not important at times to embrace trends and that type of thing, but style is less about trends than it is about how you carry yourself. I believe that if you think about what style means, you won’t become a fashion victim.
What do you strive to achieve as a designer?
My vision is the ability to design clothes for a man who wants to create his own style and doesn’t want to dress like he’s in uniform, to look like the guy in the ad, or to feel like he has to put it together that way. He wants to create his own style that goes with his own personality, and I really believe that that’s what a lot of men today really want to do. Guys out there have no sense of how their clothes should fit.
How can a guy know if a piece of clothing is right for him?
When you look in the mirror, how do you feel? Do you feel comfortable? I’m not just talking about, do they feel tight or loose, but do you feel comfortable that those clothes connect with your personality? Do you feel comfortable with the person looking back at you? Do you have a specific type of guy in mind when you create an item or collection? I like to think that the guy we’re designing for is a creative guy. I love to think about someone who’s an artist, a photographer, a writer, an actor—those kinds of things—but it’s also for a guy who has a creative spirit, and he may be a finance guy, but there’s a side of him that’s creative.
Style Tip: “Accessories can update your wardrobe. They’re fun, and they add flavor to your personality. Go with your comfort level. If you look at yourself and say, I don’t love the way I look with it, don’t wear it. There’s no pressure to go with any kind of look out there.”
What does every man need in his wardrobe?
Always make sure that you have clothes that fit well. If you’re going to buy a suit, make sure it’s a great-fitting suit. If you’re saying, well, this one’s a little more expensive, I’d rather you have fewer suits if that’s what it’s going to take to get the greatfitting suit.
What is an important detail that men tend to overlook?
When I ask women what the biggest faux pas is when they date guys, and why they don’t date them anymore, shoes come up a lot, like guys with bad shoes, guys with square-toe shoes, guys with the tacky shoes. They think it says a lot about the personality, and I agree.
Varvatos and Converse: This year, Varvatos’ label entered the 12th year of its partnership with sneaker brand Converse—the longest collaboration in the footwear industry. “As somebody growing up wearing that sneaker, it was definitely one of those things that I approached with a lot of thought,” Varvatos says. “Every generation kind of discovers it and embraces it and kind of
makes it their own.” Shop Varvatos’ full Converse collection at johnvarvatos.com/converse.