The designer, once famous for having sent naked men down the runways, has canceled plans for a spring runway show, and the better collection he was planning with Haggar Clothing Co. has been halted.
There will be a spring John Bartlett collection, including all the requisite licensed product, but it will consist of just 20 looks.
Amid these changes, Bartlett is forging ahead with his first store, in the West Village.
The designer has mellowed considerably since those salad days of racy runway spectacles. His maturity seemed sealed by the deal with Haggar, which markets to middle-aged suburbanites. The better-priced Haggar brand would have debuted for holiday ’08 and entailed a retail concept, but that plan is “on hold” as the company refocuses on its core brand.
As for the John Bartlett collection, there is yet another surprising aspect to the scaled-down spring line. Sportswear samples are being made in Delhi, India, “off the grid,” using no electricity. Sample makers are sewing on foot-pedaled machines and knitting by hand, as Bartlett is exploring the larger possibility of making clothes in a more eco-friendly way, he said.
“I’m very drawn to the idea of alternative manufacturing,” he said. (Licensed products are still made in Canada and the U.S.)
The smaller scale of the collection freed him to concentrate on launching his store, something he’d thought about seriously since brainstorming with Haggar about their now-dormant collaboration.
The first John Bartlett store is now under construction at 143 Seventh Avenue South, at Charles Street. It will carry the entire John Bartlett collection, including licensed product, plus custom shirts and suits.
“I hate the word ‘flagship’ because it’s a tiny space [500 square feet], but I want it to be a template for building more stores. A couple more in New York, and then I’ll start looking for partners to do it internationally,” he said.
Like many designers with a purely wholesale business and little to no advertising, Bartlett is challenged to forge a strong brand identity. In the ’90s he cultivated a sexually charged image, was a darling of the CFDA and landed for a time at the creative helm of the Italian house Byblos. Then he stunned everyone by closing his 10-year-old business in 2002 and decamping to Thailand and Cambodia to practice Buddhism and yoga. He returned to the fashion scene in 2003 with a less provocative stance and a renewed interest in the basis of his FIT training—tailored clothing—and immediately pursued licensing deals to that end. The bridge-priced JB John Bartlett collection is licensed to George Weintraub; the better-priced John Bartlett line is sublicensed to Jack Victor. Neckwear for both labels is licensed to MMG. In 2005 Bartlett was named creative director of Ghurka, the luggage and leather goods company, for which he now consults.
All these twists add up to a lot of confusion in the marketplace about what exactly Bartlett does and what the John Bartlett label stands for. He has arrived at a “rugged preppie” aesthetic, which suits both his Ohio breeding and his Harvard education. But the picture remains cloudy in part because his sportswear is not really showcased anywhere in New York.
A fully branded store could help clarify everything, at least here.
“So the idea is to plant myself in the West Village, which is my inspiration for so much of what I’m about, and establish my voice and say, ‘This is who I am, and where I am, and where you can find me,” Bartlett said, and he means that literally. “A big part of my agenda is to spend a lot of time in the store and really meet the customer.”
His friend and fellow designer Cynthia Rowley tipped him off to the real estate, in the former location of a decades-old vintage store called O Mistress Mine. It is not in the middle of the fashion action on Bleecker Street, but close enough. And it was in need of a total overhaul, but priced right, he said.
Bartlett, who lives in the neighborhood, hopes to rein in his daily routine to within walking distance, as part of a personal effort to make his sphere smaller and more manageable, he said.
Now 44 years old, he is in a committed relationship, and the couple dote on their three dogs. Bartlett’s favorite, a three-legged, large-breed mongrel, has become the brand mascot and his dark fur was the inspiration for the palette of the store, which is a hybrid of rural style and Old New York. The shop will have exposed wooden rafters, fieldstone walls, Dutch doors, a library ladder and a lighting fixture from an old farm. Salesmen will wear canvas aprons. The old-time look is partly modeled on the general store Bartlett’s grandfather ran in Marion, Ohio.
“My fantasy is to find a sales guy with a handlebar mustache,” he said.
The store will carry one-offs like jewelry, books and art curated by Bartlett, who is also collaborating on a line of candles with manly scents like “fireplace.”
Renovation is on track for a soft opening in the first week of September. Bartlett then intends to present the spring collection and host an editors’ breakfast during Fashion Week, he said.
Meanwhile, an informational Web site, JohnBartlettNY.com, will launch in August.
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye