The Varvatos family is originally from the village of Poulata on the Greek island of Kefalonia. John Varvatos was born in Detroit and grew up in Allen Park. He attended Allen Park High School. At the age of 16, he got a job selling menswear at the Hughes & Hatcher store in nearby Dearborn. He went to college at Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan. After graduating in 1980, he co-founded a menswear store, Fitzgerald's Men's Store, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Varvatos joined Polo Ralph Lauren in 1983. He then moved on to Calvin Klein in 1990 where he was appointed head of menswear design and oversaw the launch of the men's collection and the cK brand. During his time at Calvin Klein, Varvatos pioneered a type of men's undergarment called boxer briefs, a hybrid of boxer shorts and briefs. Made famous by a series of 1992 print ads featuring Mark Wahlberg, they have been called "one of the greatest apparel revolutions of the century." Of their creation Varvatos said in 2010, “We just cut off a pair of long johns and thought, this could be cool ...".
In 1995, Varvatos returned to Ralph Lauren as head of menswear design for all Polo Ralph Lauren brands and created the Polo Jeans Company.
In late 1999, Varvatos started his company, debuting his first clothing line at the end of 2000 in New York. The brand now includes belts, handbags, footwear, eyewear, watches and fragrances.
In September 2000, within months of showing his first collection, Varvatos opened a freestanding boutique in SoHo. The collection is currently distributed in all John Varvatos boutiques including the 315 Bowery boutique in the space that formerly housed the underground music club CBGB. In addition, the collection is available in select luxury retail stores.
2009 saw the launch of New York Nights…Direct From the Bowery, a monthly radio show hosted by Varvatos on SIRIUS XM's The Spectrum channel. The show includes songs and interviews from various artists who have influenced Varvatos throughout his career in fashion.
In 2013, Varvatos saw the release of a limited edition Chrysler 300 in his name.
In 2014 Varvatos partnered with Monte Lipman's Republic label to launch John Varvatos Records, initially signing the Zac Brown Band.
Varvatos credits his early obsession with rock 'n' roll as the catalyst for his interest in fashion. The ad campaigns for the main collection, shot by Danny Clinch, have featured such musicians and bands such as Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper, Velvet Revolver, Chris Cornell, Dave Matthews, The Roots and Green Day.
Music is also central to the brand's philanthropic efforts, including the Save the Music Foundation and an annual Stuart House benefit. In July 2014 it was announced that Ringo Starr would be modelling for the fall/winter advertising campaign, and that an associated charitable initiative would benefit The Ringo Starr Peace and Love Fund, in aid of the David Lynch Foundation. Commenting, Varvatos said, "Both inner peace and global peace are very important topics to me".
In 2001, Varvatos and Converse formed a partnership and Varvatos was licensed to create a line of high end sneakers, a partnership that still continues today. John Varvatos' sneakers are usually produced in the style of High Top Chuck Taylor All-Stars.
Varvatos had first received accolades from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) in 2000 when he was honored with the Perry Ellis Award for Menswear. The following year he won the 2001 CFDA's Designer of the Year award.
In 2005 Varvatos received the CFDA's 2005 Menswear Designer of the Year award at the New York Public Library. The recipients are determined by a selection committee of top magazine editors, journalists, stylists and retailers from around the world. He competed for the top honor along with Ralph Lauren and John Bartlett for his third CFDA win.
This charity fund, which is in support of the David Lynch Foundation, teaches Transcendental Meditation and other stress-reducing techniques to at-risk populations suffering from chronic stress and stress-related disorders that fuel crime, violence and costly medical expenditures.
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