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by laurie brookins | April 10, 2013 | Style & Beauty
John Varvatos at his Bowery store in New York, in the space that was formerly the legendary CBGB.
The John Varvatos Bowery concept store at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
Black leather bags (with or without chains) reflect the brand’s rock ’n’ roll ethos.
A look from Varvatos’s Star USA line.
A look from the Spring/ Summer 2013 Collection.
Miami has been high on his wish list for at least four or five years, he says, but John Varvatos just couldn’t settle on the right location for one of his eponymous boutiques—and then Lincoln Road beckoned. “I love the energy—it’s a great pedestrian street, one of the last great pedestrian streets in America,” he says. “A space opened up that just happened to be the right size, the right timing. It was as though all the stars had aligned.”
Being a man with a decidedly musical soul, Varvatos believes destiny will sometimes lend a hand. And the 2,200-square-foot boutique that recently opened its doors at 1020 Lincoln Road indeed seems an ideal new neighbor on a street that acts as a melting pot: His menswear, always tinged with a bit of rock ’n’ roll aesthetic, is mixed with carefully cultivated vintage pieces and a selection of photography showcasing some of rock’s most iconic onstage moments. It’s no surprise, then, that Varvatos says he feels right at home. “I love the eclectic feel of Lincoln Road,” he says. “I love that you find quirky stores next to designer stores next to art galleries and restaurants and big-brand stores. That’s exactly what makes it interesting. It’s important to us that our stores have a bit of character about them, so there wasn’t really anyplace else I wanted to be.”
His Lincoln Road location is the third Bowery concept store in the Varvatos universe—he opened the first in 2008 in New York in the home of the former CBGB, a punk-rock institution that helped launch bands like the Ramones and The Police. Over the years, the Bowery Street club had fallen into disrepair and been the subject of landlord disputes, but when it was threatened with destruction, Varvatos purchased the space so he could keep many of its design elements intact. “The original space has its own heritage, of course, its own roots, its own bones,” Varvatos notes. “We could never re-create that, nor would we want to try. This store is definitely a new iteration; it still has the same DNA, but the look is quite different.”
Undeniably brighter, the Lincoln Road store is more in keeping with an under-the-sun vibe that Miamians favor, and yet the rock-chic codes of the brand are omnipresent. Varvatos opens the store with his Spring/Summer 2013 collection, a South Beach-friendly mix of linens, cottons, and lightweight suede in shades of ivory, mushroom, and charcoal. The feel is more dandified than seen from Varvatos in recent seasons, with David Bowie and Brian Jones among the influences, yet the pieces likewise seem right at home on Collins Avenue or walking into Prime One Twelve. Customers will also find the Converse by John Varvatos sneakers the designer produces as part of his Star USA line, as well as cool leather jackets and boots he does exclusively for his Bowery stores. “It’s all casually elegant, comfortable, and sophisticated but not so formal, which works because I don’t think of Miami as such a formal town. I feel great about opening this time of year with this collection there,” Varvatos says. “But in order to make it work well, you really must have an attention to detail, a real passion for authenticity. We’ve spent a lot of time collecting the right found pieces. Especially on a street like Lincoln Road, you want it to feel as though it’s been there for a long time.”
Being part of the community, Varvatos says, is key to that idea. Gallery shows are planned for the store as part of an effort “to create a cultural experience that’s unique to Lincoln Road and the people who live there,” the designer explains. Of course, count on music as always being a part of the conversation—Varvatos, who also hosts a monthly show on Sirius XM Radio, weaves his love of music through every aspect of his brand, including his ad campaigns, which for Spring 2013 feature Jimmy Page with Gary Clark Jr. Varvatos’s face lights up when Page’s name is mentioned. “That was special,” he says. “When you think of rock royalty, the most iconic artists out there, it’s hard not to conjure up Jimmy Page. I became friendly with him a few years back through his love of clothes. Still, it was an incredible honor when he said he would do the campaign.” The campaign was photographed late last year in London, and Varvatos recalls a moment he says happens often, when “our team stands in a circle looking at each other, saying, ‘Do you believe we get paid to do this?’”
Then again, what else would you expect from the designer with the musical soul? “I am and always will be the ultimate fan,” Varvatos says. “That feeling of goose bumps, that excitement—I don’t ever want to lose that.” 1020 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, 305-674-7917
photography courtesy of john varvatos