John Varvatos On His Career ‘Magical Moments’ At Stuart House Benefit

Admittedly, John Varvatos doesn’t remember the first thing he designed.

But he does recall, vividly, the “magical moments”—as he puts it—that have happened since debuting his first line in 2000.

Speaking to FN at the John Varvatos 13th annual Stuart House Benefit at his West Hollywood, Calif., boutique on Sunday, he says that design risks often don’t always turn out favorably—but they do deliver valuable lessons.

“That happens every day—it’s still happening,” Varvatos explains, “but there’s been some fun things along the way that have been magical.”

One of those special moments happened in 2001 when he collaborated with Converse on a laceless shoe collection.

“Everybody said no, they won’t stay on the foot,” he recalls. “But probably 4 million pairs later, it was a big success and it was fun—and a lot of people love that kind of thing. Those are the things along the way—when you have something that you don’t think will work or you’re just playing around and it turns into something special for people.”

John Varvatos Men's Fall 2016 Shoes
John Varvatos men’s fall ’16 collection.
CREDIT: Rodin Banica/Fairchild.

A year earlier when Varvatos launched his first boutique in 2000—on Mercer Street in New York City—he says another runaway success took him by surprise.

“We opened the door and the first product that we sold was a pair of boots,” he says, “which was an incredible moment because most designers don’t start off doing head-to-toe, all the way down to footwear.”

“We had such an amazing reaction to our shoes right out of the box,” he explains. “To have your first sale to be the shoe that you’re so excited about was a magical moment.”

Looking ahead, he’s just as passionate about pushing his brand forward as he is about his annual charity event for Stuart House, which offers support services for child sex-abuse victims and their families.

“You think about what’s next—how to do things bigger and better next year,” he explains. “This is part of our DNA.”

The 2016 fundraising program features an auction, appearances by celebrity guests, and live music by rock icons. Honorary chairs Sofia Vergara and Joe Manganiello pulled out of the engagement after Manganiello suffered a health setback, Varvatos told Entertainment Tonight.

Still, the show must go on.

“We’ve got Sammy Hagar, Chad Smith from Red Hot Chili Peppers and Michael Anthony from Van Halen all playing for us together today, but the biggest thing is that a lot of people are going to raise money for the Stuart House.”

Varvatos’ benefit has helped raise more than $6 million for the treatment center.

Below, some famous supporters at the event chatted with FN about fashion and summer plans.

gene simmons john varvatos stuart house
Gene Simmons.
CREDIT: AP Images.

Gene Simmons, musician

What’s the relationship between rock and fashion?
“The great thing about rock is that it’s anti-fashion—it doesn’t give a f—ck what fashion does. Rock is eternal because you always have your snakeskin boots, jeans and jewelry. Fashion is always concerned about changing. Your Harley is eternal. Your pair of jeans—especially tight—is eternal. Rock-fashion is like an animal: An animal will piss on the ground and say, ‘this is my territory—this is the definition of who I am,’ as opposed to a chameleon who wants to blend in. Fashion is a chameleon—always trying to figure out what to look like. Rock does not give a f—cuk.

What projects do you have coming up?
“Touring. I’m going to be wearing more makeup and high heels than your mommy—but I mean that, really. I wear about 50 pounds of armor, studs and leather, and eight-inch platform heels. I spit fire, I fly through the air.

What’s the secret to not falling in towering heels?
“Beautiful legs. I would be so popular in jail.”

What does your shoe closet look like?
“I have four or five pairs at home, and that’s it—I’m not a woman. My wife (actress Shannon Tweed), she has two floors.”

What’s your favorite look on her?
“Not much.”

What is your summer vacation plan?
“Wherever I am is a vacation. I bring the party; I don’t go to the party. I am the party, b—h.”

tony goldwyn john varvatos
Tony Goldwyn.
CREDIT: AP Images.

Tony Goldwyn, actor (“Scandal”)

What is your summer vacation plan?
“We’re trying to figure that out. We all work. We have a summer home on the East Coast, so we’re definitely going there. My wife and I are trying to take a trip together because my kids are working this summer.”

What does your shoe closet look like?
“Mine is much bigger than my wife’s. She’s kind of a tomboy—a worker bee (set designer), so her closet is quite simple, classic stuff. I have a lot of events, so my closet has a lot of Varvatos, a lot of Brooks Brothers, a lot of Armani. It tends to classic but simple.”

“Boots, jeans and a T-shirt is my uniform. I’ll add a blazer to that, and that’s my uniform. I really like Varvatos dress shirts—where you can be casual, but dressy. I did a campaign for Brooks Brothers last year, and I really love what they did with their line of men’s clothes. I like their classic style. Their fabrics are good without being overly dressy, and they’re not as conservative as they used to be. They made a lot of suits for my character (President Fitzgerald Grant) on ‘Scandal.’”

What brands are in your “Scandal” wardrobe?
“Fitz wears a lot of Prada, Ferragamo and Boss—simple black dress shoes. The shoes for playing the President of the United States can’t be too fashion forward; they’re pretty traditional. Lyn Paolo, our incredible designer, tends to pop the men with accessories. I wear almost exclusively Armani dress suits—fitted and beautiful—but conservative. And then she’ll find the tie—a really cool tie. There’s a very limited spectrum being the President of the United States, in terms of fashion.”

bill bellamy john varvatos stuart house
Bill Bellamy (L).
CREDIT: AP Images.

Bill Bellamy, actor

What’s in your shoe closet?
“I like sneakers—I buy a lot of expensive sneaks, but then I also like shoes too. Solid shoes. If you have a classic shoe—like a Cole Haan, it goes with everything. You can dress up cool jeans with a nice shoe, it’s an accent piece and it doesn’t always have to match.”

What is your summer vacation plan?
“Family trips in between my movie and TV stuff. We’ve got the Caribbean on deck and Hawaii.”

What projects do you have coming up?
“’The Bounce Back’ is coming out this summer, and ‘Kindergarten Cop 2’— this is the first movie that I could do that my kids can go see. They can’t go see ‘How to be a Player.’”

cara santana john varvatos stuart house
Cara Santana.
CREDIT: AP Images.

Cara Santana, actress

What was the Coachella fashion scene like this year?
“It was terrible—it was like ‘70s-gone-‘90s-gone-wrong. I saw a lot of boots.”

What projects do you have coming up?
“My Glam app—it’s (like) Uber for hair, makeup and nails. We’re in 23 cities, including London. We had three activations in Coachella, and I’m finishing a script that I wrote that Jesse (Metcalfe) and Rosario Dawson will be in. (‘Steps’) is about six people through three decades struggling through addiction and sobriety.”

jesse metcalfe john varvatos stuart house
Jesse Metcalfe.
CREDIT: AP Images.

Jesse Metcalfe, actor

What projects do you have coming up?
“The ‘Dead Rising: Endgame’ sequel is coming out in the summer, and I’m starting a series for Hallmark in May about a country music singer who goes to Nashville, gets in a little bit of trouble and ends up going home to find himself again. He ends up falling in love with his high school sweetheart. I sing, play guitar and write some of the original music on the show.

“I also have a film that’s premiering at the L.A. Film Festival, it’s called ‘Destined.’ It’s an interwoven story a la ‘Traffic.’ Every character plays two different versions of themselves. It’s about choices, poverty, disenfranchisement and the decay of Detroit.”

Tanc Sade, actor

What’s in your shoe closet?
“Country Road shoes that are probably 20 years old. I resole them every three or four years. You can take the boy out of Australia, but you can’t take the Australia out of the boy.”



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