6 Minutes With Designer John Varvatos

Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett. (Photo by Mick Rock/Rock in Fashion)Menswear designer, radio host, and avid music fan John Varvatos is an insanely busy man. He’s so in demand, in fact, that a recent event promoting his new coffee table book, “John Varvatos: Rock in Fashion,” was the press equivalent of speed dating – introduction, questions, and on to the next reporter. But despite days of this breakneck pace on a four-city promo tour, the affable CFDA-award winning designer shared plenty on how rockers' styles influence his designs, why Tina Turner is the sexiest woman to ever take the stage, and how burning the midnight oil keeps private and professional lives intact.

Here are five things we learned about Varvatos in just six minutes:

1. Tina Turner captivates him. Style icons Debbie Harry (“she could wear anything and make it look amazing”) and Lada Gaga are among the musicians featured in the book’s “Gypsies, Divas, and Tomboys” chapter dedicated to female rockers. But Varvatos’s highest praise is reserved for singer Tina Turner, “She’s the sexiest female rocker to me,” he told Yahoo Shine. “The way she sang, the way her legs were, the way she flared her nostrils – everything.”

2. Passion projects are best pursued on your own time.
It took Varvatos and co-writer Holly George-Warren more than two years to piece together the images, notes, and research that eventually became “Rock in Fashion.” With family, an ongoing Converse partnership, runway presentations,  a special gig designing car interiors, and a worldwide brand vying for his attention, Varvatos churned out the book on weekends and nights. “I never really knew what I was getting into," he admitted. "I started the project realizing I still have a family, and I can’t do it during my work hours.”

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3. There won’t be a Varvatos women’s line anytime soon.
Hang on to that bottle of John Varvatos perfume because that’s the only lady-centric item we’ll be seeing from the Detroit native in the near future. “I actually started in women’s [designs] but we’re so busy with so many things going on and so much global growth, I want to stay focused because we’re doing really well and I don’t want to take my eye off of that.” Bummer.

Tina Turner in action circa 1970. (Photo by Bob Gruen/Rock in Fashion)4. Stylists have taken over rock’s DIY aesthetic.
“Rock in Fashion” highlights plenty of DIY style – Heart’s hand-sewn garments, Jimmy Page’s self-designed “dragon suits,” MC5’s stage wear (much of which were created by band members’ girlfriends) – but in today’s music world, stylists rule. “Back then, these bands, either their girlfriends [did it] or they did it themselves, and they created their own looks. Today you’ve got a stylist with a lot of artists that brings in roomful of clothes and they try on stuff and they figure it out," said Varvatos. "There are some great stylists and there are some artists that just really kill it, but there’s also sometimes artists that are inconsistent with their style.”

Stylists aren’t the only reason musicians aren’t creating their own personas. Social media, the paparazzi and the music industry’s publicity machine are also major reasons for the shift, according to Varvatos. “Listen, we love working with stylists, they’re big fans of our brand, and I do think that artists today don’t have the time to go shopping. Because it’s such a small world, it’s also a little uncomfortable sometimes – big artists going into stores and being mobbed by people and people wanting to talk to you and all of that. Sometimes it’s just a lot easier to have someone bring you the clothes.”

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5. It’s all about context
Though “Fashion in Rock” features well-known musicians like Iggy Pop, Billy Idol, Jack White, and David Bowie, Varvatos strove to put these familiar faces in a new light and context. “I’d say about 75 percent of [the images] have never been seen before and the other ones were just too important for me not to put in there because they meant a lot to me,” said Varvatos. “There are a few that are really iconic, but they were inspiring and they help tell the story of the incestuousness between fashion and rock and roll.”