OTD: designer John Varvatos on his new brand
However, there have been issues for years, which will be familiar to creator-entrepreneurs who take on investors and go into debt to pay for expansions, then struggle to retain the magic of the original brand under pressure to sell more products at lower prices to maintain growth. Cost reduction measures in 2015 diluted product lines, leading to a reorganization of the business. Varvatos tried to sell the company to Authentic Brands in 2017, but its investors didn’t agree to the deal. Then came 2020, and Varvatos stepped down as President and Chief Creative Officer. He says he is still on good terms with his former investors.
Varvatos has other projects, including an eponymous record label and the Villa One tequila brand with his pop star partner Joe Jonas. So why, at 67 and exhausted, would he return to the clothing business?
“I love fashion. It’s been most of my life,” he explains. He adds that there’s interest in becoming a small, nimble brand again. t was a close-knit team,” he says wistfully. “I’m not trying to compete with my old brand… I don’t need 30 or 50 stores. shop. “
His idea of boutiquey is exceptionally broad. He says he is looking for store space in Miami, Austin, Dallas, Houston, Toronto, London and elsewhere in Europe and Asia. And, although he initially ruled out a wholesale business, he is already considering stores within stores.
Experience matters the second time around
The large-scale thinking on the retail front is a sign that this brand hasn’t struggled to match its premiere. With OTD, he tapped into the resources, experiences and connections of a career spanning four decades. Several executives, including Michelle Marks, Senior Manager of Public Relations and Studio Services in Los Angeles, followed him from John Varvatos, reconnecting a well-trained, albeit small, team. A dozen people work in the office and studio, with an additional half-dozen in each store, he says. OTD is funded by Varvatos and a group of his friends, he says, leaving the control to him.
Its strategy mimics business trends that have overtaken fashion seasons, with seasonal collections punctuated by drops and collabs as brands rush to stock fresh produce every few days. “We’re constantly doing little drops — a jacket, a hoodie, capsule collections with contemporary artists, musicians,” he says.
Varvatos relies on walk-in traffic to ferry the store from Los Angeles, but it has another important role to play as a hub for the city’s entertainment studios. A temporary pop-up version of the store, located just behind the permanent location, already works with stylists and costume designers for film and TV projects, says Marks, who has relied on past relationships between studios and stylists from his old days with the Marque John Varvatos.
Varvatos smiled at him. “We have a very experienced team,” he says.
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