John Varvatos has a new home in the heart of the storied Sunset Strip in West Hollywood.
The veteran designer is opening the second store for his new label, OTD, in the bustling nightlife and dining district that’s also steeped in rock ‘n’ roll history.
But the label, which stands for On This Day, diverges from the designer’s self-named, music-driven menswear label by encompassing womenswear, unisex clothing as well as men’s fashion, all with varied influences.
The 4,000-square-foot shop with polished cement floors, a wall of windows, and 110-foot-wide sidewalk exposure opens Thursday at 8580 Sunset Boulevard.
“There is just a lot of good energy on the street,” Varvatos, who was watching workmen put the finishing touches to windows and walls, said of the location near Fred Segal, Kith and the soon-to-open Supreme store in the former Tower Records space, all of which could add up to a retail revival for the stretch.
Paying homage to the famous street, the store walls feature drawings created by Joe Palec, a Denver artist who took a black magic marker and, in four days, created images of some of Sunset Boulevard’s more iconic establishments such as the Laugh Factory, The Comedy Store, Randy’s Donuts and adjacent Nate’n Al’s deli in Beverly Hills.
When the brand launched in October, OTD opened its first store in New York City at the corner of West Broadway and Spring Street in SoHo. That location has been attracting tourists and locals alike and has been a good barometer of what’s selling, Varvatos said. (Womenswear is doing quite well.)
Los Angeles seemed like the next logical step. While in L.A. scouting for locations, someone told Varvatos about an empty H&M site in a prime location. “We walked up that night and the store was empty but lit,” he recalled. “I got to the store and said, ‘This is it.’”
While the retail spot was being built out, OTD opened a pop-up spot in December behind the current store. Being near an Equinox fitness center and a SoulCycle, it had a built-in clientele, he said.
Varvatos started OTD right after exiting his previous company, John Varvatos Enterprises, which after 20 years filed for bankruptcy protection in May 2020 and was acquired by Lion/Hayman Cayman Ltd., an affiliate of majority partner Lion Capital.
With COVID-19 in full force, Varvatos spent time at his lake house a few hours north of New York, contemplating what to do next. “I just decided I had a new story, and it was time to reinvent,” he remembered. “I started thinking about what was different in everybody’s life and how things had changed. We looked at what is important, down to what our wardrobe would be in the future.”
The label’s name comes from pop-up images generated on Facebook showing a photo from a few years ago with the phrase, “On This Day.” “I kept thinking about how all those pictures that popped up were great moments. When I think about OTD, I think about celebrating great moments in time,” the designer said.
It took a year to develop the brand, mostly through Zoom meetings with factories and vendors in Europe, South Korea, India and China.
The result is a sportswear collection with a streetwear vibe whose demographic ranges from people in their 20s to their 50s and beyond. “The brand is about pop culture,” Varvatos said. “I think about movies, TV, music, contemporary art and sports. Some people say, ‘Sports?’ But have you been to a basketball court to see what goes on there? It looks like a runway show.”
The collection consists of plaid task and track jackets with tape detail that can be mixed and matched with T-shirts or sweaters for dressing up or down. What looks like a camouflage design on a jacket is really a floral print done in camo colors that have been applied on the fabric with a special screen-printing technology.
There are brushed cotton cardigans and ribbed contrast-stitch sweaters in cotton and polyester. Unisex sweaters made of silk and cashmere are color printed from the inside to give the outside look an artisanal feel. In addition, there are jacket-style work shirts, checked snap-button shirts and hoodies.
Varvatos said 60 percent of his fabrics contain some kind of polyester made from recycled plastic bottles and 80 percent of his textiles are sustainable.
Prices range from $125 for a T-shirt or $395 for a merino wool hoodie sweater to $1,595 for a hooded suede jacket of $1,695 for a leather peacoat.
With the L.A. store now open, the designer is on the lookout for two to three more permanent retail locations this year as well as a few pop-up store sites. He is focusing on Southern California, Texas and Florida as well as London and Ontario, Canada.
The search for retail locations is just part of the excitement of starting a new brand. It’s part of creating a new look. “I think it is a different menswear world than it was, and it is a different womenswear world, too,” Varvatos said. “A lot of people are wanting to dress up again and go out in the evening. But the way they mix and match things is a different sensibility.”