John Varvatos is a man of many talents. Best known as a designer, he’s also a serial entrepreneur and has founded several companies, including: The John Varvatos fashion brand, John Varvatos Records, Villa One Tequila and his new clothing line, OTD.
He’s also a committed philanthropist. Music is at the center of everything he does, including his philanthropy, which includes the Save The Music Foundation, an annual Stuart House benefit. He’s also passionate about meditation, and inner peace, and has donated to the David Lynch Foundation.
At his core, though, Varvatos is an entrepreneur.
He started his entrepreneurial journey early on. Shortly after graduating college, he co-founded a menswear store in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
That’s where he “cut his teeth” in the fashion world and learned about running a business.
In 1983, he joined Polo Ralph Lauren where he learned everything about running a successful brand from, one of the best to ever do it, Ralph Lauren.
Varvatos said, “When I joined Ralph Lauren, in the 80’s, there was nothing like it in the world. If you went to a Bloomingdales, for example, there weren’t shop-in-shops back then. Ralph kind of pioneered all of that. Creating a look. Creating a culture. And creating an esthetic that connected with the consumer. And making things aspirational. All of those things are part of my DNA, and my soul, today because he did it the best in the world.”
After a successful period at Ralph Lauren, he left to join Calvin Klein where he invented a new product that changed the men’s underwear business forever: The boxer brief.
Before that, it was only boxers or briefs for men. And it had been that way for a hundred years.
But Varvatos changed all that.
He said, “In between when I left Ralph Lauren the first time, and when I came back, I was head of design at Calvin Klein. Inventing the boxer brief was something that I, and the team, created. Calvin was super behind it and excited about it. He said, ‘You guys are really on to something here.’ And David Geffen actually recommended Mark Walhberg for the campaign. He was like 17 years old. And that helped propel the business, which was almost nonexistent at the time, to the biggest business that he has today: The underwear business.”
After his stint at Calvin Klein, he went back to Ralph Lauren, for a brief time, but he yearned to start a brand himself.
In 1999, Varvatos started his own company, John Varvatos, and debuted it in late 2000 in New York. In addition to clothing, the brand now includes: Belts, handbag, footwear, eyewear, watches and fragrances.
Varvatos has great advice for all of the aspiring entrepreneurs out there. He said, “For any entrepreneur out there, I’d say that it’s all about following your passion. But then, do you have all of the tools to execute it? Because if you can’t execute, the dream will never come to fruition.”
After leaving the John Varvatos brand, in 2020, he started his latest line, OTD. It is a multi-gender brand that presents a synergetic assortment of women, men and unisex clothing as well as footwear, jewelry and accessories. OTD explores the modern experience of style and its inextricable connections to pop culture.
Varvatos said, “I just launched this brand On This Day, OTD, and the whole DNA and ethos of this company is in storytelling. So, when we started with OTD, I kept seeing these old pictures, of things that happened on that day, on my phone. I wanted to celebrate those special moments that are happening today, or that have happened over time, that have inspired me and could inspire other people. It could be for clothes or it could be for other great things that we want to celebrate.”
And, of course, Varvatos couldn’t stop with just one project. He also recently co-founded a tequila brand, with Nick Jonas, called Villa One Tequila.
Varvatos said, “I ended up sitting next to Nick Jonas, at a dinner and, although we come from different worlds, we connected on so many things, like: Family, music, style and just our passion for things. And at the dinner we were drinking tequila. And I asked him his story and why he was passionate about tequila. He said, ‘I love the taste. Also, I’m a Type 1 diabetic and it’s the healthiest spirit you can drink.’’’
Later on, they asked themselves, “Why is tequila so expensive? Why do we have to spend $150 on a bottle of tequila that is really good? Why can’t we do something that is best in class at a much more accessible price?”
It’s available everywhere now. Check out VillaOneTequila.com to find the closest store to you.
And make sure you follow John because you never know when he’s going to launch something new. Like I said before, he’s an entrepreneur to the core.