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John Varvatos is set to bring his rock ’n’ roll-inflected style to the boys’ market.
This story first appeared in the August 2, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The designer will launch a range of tailored clothing and sportswear for boys ages 4 to 14 with licensee Peerless Clothing this fall under his John Varvatos USA label. The new line will be carried in 35 doors this fall, including Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and Fred Segal.
“It’s mom-friendly, it’s sophisticated, it’s edgy and it’s very much our handwriting,” said John Varvatos, chairman and chief executive officer of John Varvatos. “When you look at the boys’ tailored clothing market, everything is pressed and pristine — and we have some of that in the line for a graduation or bar mitzvah. But we also add that flavor we do in men’s, with a vintage sensibility and a little bit more rustic attitude. It doesn’t look uptight — the tailored jackets can be worn as an outerwear piece with a T-shirt and jeans.”
The deal with Peerless, which is headquartered in Montreal, builds on the license the suit maker already holds for men’s tailored clothing under the John Varvatos USA label. Peerless assumed that business when it formed a strategic partnership with tailored clothing manufacturer George Weintraub & Sons last year.
“John Varvatos represents a look that is young, exciting and different than any other designer boys’ line in the market,” said Ronny Wurtzburger, president of Peerless Clothing. “John believes in boys’ and it gave us an additional opportunity to work with him.”
Boys’ has been a growth area for Peerless, with the division expanding sales at a rate of 20 percent a year, according to Wurtzburger. Additional licenses in the Peerless boys’ portfolio include Joseph Abboud, Michael Kors, DKNY, Elie Tahari and Hickey Freeman, in addition to the owned Tallia Orange brand.
“Peerless really owns the tailored boys’ business, but they haven’t really stretched their wings like they have with us and made it a collection,” said Varvatos. “Ronny and I had a conversation about doing boys’ tailored and I said I didn’t want to do just tailored, I wanted to do a whole lifestyle thing. We really thought about who this kid was, from school to weekend to party and special events.”
Signatures in the boys’ collection include bold linings in the tailored jackets, dagger buttons and skull, peace sign and starburst graphics on T-shirts. The peace sign logo also adorns polo shirts.
The suits in super 110s and 120s wool fabric retail for $285, cotton dress shirts for $70 and skinny ties with peace sign or fleur-de-lis motifs for $55. There are tailored jackets in corduroy, embossed faux leather or crinkled cotton velvet for $160 to $175, stretch five-pocket jeans in black or indigo for $82 to $98, Henleys and waffle hoodies for $65 to $86 and graphic T-shirts for $45 to $50.
Longtime footwear partner Converse has made a special line of its iconic high-tops in black leather or olive suede, with metal zipper details for the collection as well.
Bloomingdale’s will launch the boys’ line in 10 doors, including 59th Street in Manhattan, Short Hills in New Jersey, North Michigan Avenue in Chicago and Century City in California. It will be positioned in the Young World department, adjacent to boys’ lines from Burberry, Giorgio Armani, Hugo Boss and Scott James, with the latter two new to Bloomingdale’s for fall, as well.
“The line has both casual and dressy offerings, making shopping for everyday and special occasions a breeze,” said David Fisher, executive vice president and general merchandise manager for men’s and kids. “John Varvatos has an edgier, sophisticated aesthetic that will have our boys emulating the men who favor the brand. Over the last several seasons, we have anchored our Young World assortments in brands that have proven successful in men’s and women’s.”
The boys’ license joins other existing John Varvatos licenses, encompassing fragrance with Elizabeth Arden, eyewear with the Basecurve division of REM Eyewear and Converse for the Converse by John Varvatos line of casual sneakers.
The company is in the final stages of negotiations for an underwear license, which will be revealed in the coming weeks, added Varvatos.
The John Varvatos USA men’s line, which uses a star as its emblem, was launched in 2006 as a younger counterpart to the brand’s Collection business. Priced 30 to 40 percent lower than Collection, the USA line emphasizes a preppy-meets-rock aesthetic in its vintage-inspired denim, sportswear, tailored clothing, footwear, bags and leather goods. The men’s line is carried at about 500 doors, including Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Barneys New York.
The boys’ launch is the first major initiative for the brand since it was acquired by London-based Lion Capital in March from VF Corp. However, Varvatos, who retains a minority stake in the company, said the license with Peerless was initiated last year while VF still owned the brand.
“It’s been fantastic. They are very like-minded thinkers in terms of the brand and protecting the brand,” said Varvatos of his new partners at Lion Capital. The private equity firm, headed by Lyndon Lea, has not taken a day-to-day role in the company, added Varvatos. “They’re not operators, they’re investors.”
John Varvatos is aiming to open four to five new stores in 2013, adding on to the nine it currently operates. Potential locations include Chicago, Miami, another New York location, additional West Coast locations and London, which would be the first international store for the brand. Current John Varvatos stores include Los Angeles, San Francisco, Costa Mesa, Calif., Malibu, Calif., East Hampton, N.Y., and two each in Las Vegas and downtown Manhattan.