John Varvatos Explains The Right Way To Work With Celebrities To Build A Brand

By Kyle O. on
January 31, 2016

For years we’ve covered the connection between celebrities and designer labels, however we’ve always wanted more insight. Given that high profile figures have always had the ability to make or break a brand, we wanted to get a more in-depth look at what part the influencer plays in the fashion industry, from the designer’s perspective. We reached out to one of America’s greatest designers, John Varvatos, to get his take on the continuous relationship between the designer brand and the celebrity.



UH: When the John Varvatos label was first getting off the ground, who was the first celebrity to embrace the brand?

JV: Tom Cruise was one of the first celebrities who jumped on the brand. It was our first season and we began work on his film “Vanilla Sky”.




UH: Prior to launching your label in 1999, you worked for Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, what did you learn from them about collaborating with celebrities and how did you apply that knowledge to your brand?

JV: I learned that relationships that came about organically were the best.



John Varvatos with Ralph Lauren at 2005 CFDA Awards Cocktail Party



UH: How has your label’s relationship with celebrities and influencers affected its growth?

JV: Celebrities and influencers are a piece of the puzzle. However, our growth over the past 15 years is due to creating exceptional products with a very unique and distinct point of view. The John Varvatos customers know that, which is why they keep coming back.



UH: Do you find that sales typically increase immediately after a big name celebrity is captured wearing your pieces out in public or in a magazine/blog?

JV: It definitely has an impact.



UH: Are ad campaigns featuring well known celebrities more successful than those with relatively unknown models?

JV: It depends on the brand and the celebrity. The celebrities we have worked with are world-renowned musicians. However, it’s an organic relationship. We like the musicians and they like the John Varvatos brand. It’s a relationship based on mutual respect and appreciation.



UH: Do you find it better to wait and organically build relationships with celebrities and influencers, or seek out those who best fit the brands ideals, or both?

JV: Relationships have to be genuine and built on mutual respect so they have to be built organically. If you give enough money to anyone, he/she will “love” any brand. But it’s not genuine. At John Varvatos, we want the celebs and influencers we work with to respect the JV brand as much as we respect them.



UH: What celebrity collaboration was the most impactful in your label’s history?

JV: Honestly, they’ve all been impactful.



UH: With the advent of social media, there are now more new celebrities and influencers appearing than ever before, how do you keep up and how do you decide who to work with?

JV: We tend to work with those who best represent the DNA of the John Varvatos brand. We’re not trying to work with everyone and anybody. We’re looking for authenticity.



UH: Through your charity initiative, the annual Stuart House Benefit, you’re taking your love for fashion and music to bring musicians together to support young victims of sexual violence. With 12th years under your belt, what initially motivated you to raise awareness about this important cause?

JV: The first day I walked into Stuart House, it ripped my heart out. But it also made me realize that we as a company could really do something to help. We started the benefit in 2002 and since its inception, we have raised over $6 million for the organization.



UH: As a rock music lover, which musicians or bands have greatly influenced your work? And have you had any dream come true collaborations with a favorite artist?

JV: At an early age I was exposed to defining musicians such as The Who, Led Zeppelin, Detroit’s own MC5, Alice Cooper, Bob Seger, and The Stooges. The creative spirit, electricity and edginess intrinsic in the personal style of these rock ‘n’ roll icons are what inspires and influences me.



John Varvatos with Alice Cooper for the Detroit store grand opening in 2015



UH: Is there any celebrity or influencer that you haven’t worked with before that you’d love to collaborate with or see wearing your pieces?

JV: I’d love to collaborate with Jack White!


UpscaleHype Co-Founder. Follow me at (@kyleok).