LONDON — John Varvatos has made a bold statement with his first European store, a sprawling 10,000-square-foot flagship — his label’s largest yet — that opened on Conduit Street here on Friday.
The three-story space plays to both Varvatos’ rock-inflected style — with vinyl records and vintage audio equipment for sale alongside the designer’s leather jackets in the store’s basement — and his sartorial leanings, with the sleek, light-filled second floor devoted to the brand’s tailoring offer.
“I wanted it to be very much a sense of who we are — very eclectic; it’s like coming into your home….I call it casually elegant,” said Varvatos, who noted that the London store is based on the concept of his flagship in New York’s SoHo. “But it’s on steroids, for sure,” he said, referring to the expansive space.
Varvatos said the mix of customers his label attracts — from teens who buy his designs for Converse to men buying a made-to-measure suit — was one of the factors in choosing Conduit Street, which runs between tony Mayfair and busy Regent Street.
“We didn’t want to be on Bond Street, even though it’s a beautiful street, as that kind of [customer] mix wouldn’t have happened. And if we just went to [East London’s] Shoreditch or something we wouldn’t get the other…customers,” he said, noting that he’s been looking for a store on Conduit Street “since 2001.” The new store, which also features a grand, remodeled facade, stands next to Yohji Yamamoto on the street and nearby to Vivienne Westwood, Dior and Jimmy Choo.
As with his U.S. stores, Varvatos has sourced one-off pieces of furniture for the London space to lend a unique feel to the dark wood floors and white brick walls. One wall is inset with a stained glass installation in shades of green, yellow and red that Varvatos found in a Fifties bar in Paris’ Marais district, while a Seventies chandelierlike light fitting that the designer discovered in an Italian hotel is suspended from the store’s ceiling.
“I wanted this store to be a cultural place, rather than just another fashion store,” said Varvatos. The basement also carries customized Fender guitars, while framed images of the likes of The Beatles, Marc Bolan and The Rolling Stones adorn the walls, with everything available to buy.
The store carries all of Varvatos’ lines, including John Varvatos Collection, John Varvatos Star USA and Converse by John Varvatos, along with his fragrances, eyewear, jewelry and watches. The designer said that tailoring represents a third of his business and sportswear 45 percent, with the remainder made up of footwear and accessories. Varvatos noted, however, that tailoring may come to represent a greater proportion of sales in London. “You look out of the window here and there’s Savile Row [across the road],” said Varvatos. “We really put a lot of emphasis on the tailoring….It’s the fastest growing part of our business. Young guys love wearing suits….The first thing, when they get any money, they want to buy a suit,” he said.
There are a number of designs that are exclusive to the London store, such as limited-edition leather jackets, along with shoes, jewelry and tailored designs. Varvatos said he could be more experimental with the London product offering.
“The great thing I love about London too is people understand textural fabrics and tweeds — in the States [customers] don’t really get it that much. [The London store] allows us to do a lot of the things that are really in our DNA and soul,” said Varvatos. As of spring, Varvatos said the store will carry a London collection designed for the store, which will include pieces such as a slimmer fitting jean than those in the label’s current collections.
As to expanding in the region, Varvatos said he’s looking for further locations in Europe, and would like to find a space for another London store “in a more particular area,” along with opening separate footwear and accessories stores for the brand globally. Among the label’s recent openings, following Lion Capital taking a majority stake in the brand in 2012, are stores in Boston, Houston, Miami and on Madison Avenue in New York. While the designer declined to disclose sales predictions for the London store, he said they’re “large. It’s a large store, so we need large sales predictions,” he said.
To mark the London launch, a John Varvatos bus promoting the designer’s fall ad campaign featuring Ringo Starr will drive around London during August and September, while on Sept. 3 the designer will hold an official opening party.
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