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John Varvatos has had his eye on Miami. Over the past two years the all-American menswear designer has sprinkled two stores across our coastline— the first opened on Lincoln Road in 2013, the second opened just one year later at Bal Harbour Shops— adding some much needed rough and rugged luxury to our city. Fresh off the launch of his Spring 2015 collection and the announcement of a pioneering store in Detroit, his hometown, Varvatos stopped by his Bal Harbour shop for quite the feté in celebration of its opening. We stole the designer for a few moments to ask some vital questions, like New York or Miami? Tequila or vodka? Turtlenecks, or nothing at all? Read on to see what transpired.
Talk to me a little bit about your Spring 2015 collection. What inspired it?
What really inspired it was that I was thinking about evening wear. We always talk about day to night and I started thinking about taking evening to day and taking those silhouettes and using very soft, lightweight fabrics like linen, kind of romantic fabrics in a way. I was listening to the album from Queen called A Night at The Opera, and I thought, this is kind of like a day at the opera.
What pieces from your Spring 2015 collection do you think blend in with the Miami ambiance?
I think the whole collection is kind of soft, light, airy. I think this particular spring 2015 collection has got a very kind of international, romantic feel to it. So I don't really know if it's about pieces, really, or the whole aura kind of has a cool vibe for [Miami].
What's an essential piece you think every guy should own?
A great jacket. It doesn't have to be formal; it can be casually elegant. I think young guys don't just want to wear jeans and flip flops anymore. They want to experience something they never did.
You opened your Lincoln Road store just last year, and then in Bal Harbour in May. Why so much focus on Miami right now?
We've always been looking at Miami but we had to find the right location, so the first we were able to secure was on Lincoln Road. I just thought there wasn't anybody doing what we do there. We've been wanting to come to Bal Harbour for years but in this center there's never one place open. It's the most beautiful center in America, really, so it was about finding a location and it's really rejiggering here. Because sometimes when you're from the Northeast you say, will it really translate? And [Lincoln Road] really worked down here so we thought we could definitely do a second location and possibly something down the road.
You're from Detroit, which is a motor-forward city, not so much fashion. What made you want to get into fashion?
I never thought about it growing up at all, other than when I was in junior high I noticed when I wore certain clothes it worked with the girls. I started working at men's stores so I could get a discount to buy clothes and be around the clothes. I have a degree in education, and the lightbulb didn't really go off until I was 28 or 29 years old. I was actually working at Ralph Lauren in New York. I started working with the design group and I thought, this is what I want to do. I don't want to sell, I want to be a designer. It isn't always something you grow up with. And yeah, Detroit is kind of an industrial place, but I just announced I'm opening a store in Downtown Detroit. It's a city that really is just in the beginnings of its rebirth. I want to be a part of that. I want to contribute to that.
So you feel that you still have a lot of influence in Detroit?
My family is still there… Am I thinking about commerce? Not really. Not right now at the moment because there's not really a lot of retail there, but I'm thinking these are my roots. It's really about having a legacy that you kind of helped, what little bit you can.
What legacy do you want to leave here in Miami?
That's a really deep question... I would really like to spend more time here! But you, know, I'm an American designer and the legacy that you want is to get people excited about what you do.
So, Miami or New York?
That's not fair.
Well, I love New York, but Miami is more my playground.
To finish, when a women wears ___, it totally turns you on.
Nothing. But I will say this, the right women in a turtleneck turns me on.
· John Varvatos [Official Site]
· John Varvatos Recreates his Manhattan Pad at Bal Harbour Shops [Racked Miami]
· One on One [Racked Miami]