John Varvatos is back.
Just over a year since he exited his namesake brand following a bankruptcy filing and sale to a private equity firm, the designer is at the helm of a new brand and business called OTD — On This Day.
OTD quietly launched a website and opened a store in New York’s SoHo about two weeks ago and the fashion universe started wondering who was behind this addition to the landscape.
Varvatos’ name is nowhere to be found on the site nor in the store and the aesthetic of OTD is markedly different from the distressed leather/rock ‘n’ roll sensibility that had become the trademark of the John Varvatos label.
But the man himself had been spied working in the store, leading to speculation.
When reached by WWD, the designer confirmed that he was president of OTD, but because of contractual agreements with his old brand, he couldn’t discuss any of the specifics of the newly launched label.
He did say, however, that he remains on good terms with the current owners of the John Varvatos brand and wish them nothing but success. “I want John Varvatos to be successful,” he said. “It’s my namesake brand and I hold no ill will toward them.”
But he is no longer involved since exiting in August 2020 following the sale of the business to London-based Lion/Hendrix Cayman Ltd. Although other U.S. brand marketers including WHP Global and Authentic Brands Group had been interested in acquiring the brand, Lion had the upper hand since it was already an investor in the label.
Sources close to OTD said that upon leaving his eponymous brand, Varvatos immediately started thinking about his next chapter.
“He didn’t want to do JV2,” said one source. “He could have cloned it and it would have been successful because the brand has so many fans, but he wanted to challenge himself and do something different. He wanted to reinvent himself.”
OTD is indeed different from the John Varvatos men’s brand that the designer created in 1999. More than half of the label is women’s wear or unisex styles, and it has a look that can be described as sophisticated street that is more relevant to today’s culture.
“OTD is completely different than John Varvatos,” the source continued. “It’s not at all rock ‘n’ roll and is more tied to pop culture.”
According to its marketing materials, OTD is intended to have an “inextricable connection to pop culture, traversing fashion, music, art, sports, film, television, architecture and more.”
Its website, otdnyc.com, touts that the line is “a fully realized output of women, men and unisex clothing, footwear and accessories. From luxe sweats and knits to unexpected takes on tailored styles, OTD explores juxtapositions of past and present — reinterpreting memorable pop-culture moments to feel instantly relevant.”
The name is derived from the idea that storytelling is intrinsic to its message. “As individuals, we instinctively create stories that define our past, allow us to make sense of the present and propel us into the future,” said James Schuck, senior director of social media and special projects. “In real-life everyday communications, storytelling not only reinforces and enhances our own personal narratives, it provokes opinions, interpretations and ideas. The crux of the message is: write your own story, on this day and every day.”
OTD offers elevated and reimagined silhouettes such as blazers, oversize knits and plaid overalls for women; tracksuits of interchangeable jackets and pants with side stripes, racer stripes and multistripes for either gender, and color-blocked and paneled jackets with animal jacquard prints.
Knitwear ranges from reversible jackets and shirt-jackets and a mohair sweater coat to a 100 percent linen coat. There are also sport-inspired pieces including French terry sweats, hockey jerseys in sweater construction and basketball tanks. Leather does make an appearance in the line in biker jackets and traditional coats, and there are also micro-quilted jackets, a garment dyed trench and plush velvet puffers.
For both men and women, tailored pieces are informed by leisurewear, and are more relaxed and playful than serious. The line also offers leather sneakers and combat boots.
OTD used American photographer Mark Seliger to shoot the fall launch campaign in a studio setting where dynamic movements and expressive poses provide a playful mood.
For the first season, OTD also collaborated with King Baby on a unisex collection of rings, bracelets and necklaces in sterling silver that were designed and handcrafted in the U.S.
The pricing of the line is somewhere between high-end contemporary and entry-level designer. “There’s a white space for special things at reasonable prices,” a source said.
Prices range from $85 for an OTD baseball cap and $95 for a shrunken crewneck T to $165 for a sweatpant and $395 for a cashmere-blend crewneck sweater to $1,695 for a leather peacoat.
In addition to a large and far-reaching collection, OTD is making a statement at retail. The New York flagship is 4,000 square feet on the corner of Spring Street and West Broadway in the former DSquared store. The space features wide windows offering natural light, concrete floors, wavy light fixtures and a large infinity mirror. The furniture was custom made and includes a round table and a white atomic-era jewelry case. Starting later this year, a full range of furniture will be available to purchase and visitors to the store will be able to buy an exclusive selection of photography co-curated by Timothy White and the OTD team.
Since opening, the SoHo store has already done strong sales, according to the company, with its $295 palazzo pants among the best-selling items.
But it’s not just New York City where OTD is hoping to make its mark. It’s also going big in Los Angeles by opening its second 4,000-square-foot store in the former H&M space on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood later this fall.
There are plans for several pop-ups for the holiday season, according to the company.
At this point, there is no intention to wholesale OTD and the focus will remain on its direct-to-consumer efforts. In the future, it may work with a limited number of retailers domestically and internationally, but that remains to be seen. “The brand believes in d-to-c and vertical retailing and offering the right experience in-store,” a source said.
With such an aggressive launch, it begs the question of who is bankrolling the business. Sources said it is being funded by friends and family who wanted to invest after being exposed to the brand’s vision. There is no institutional or private equity money. “They loved the name and the branding,” a source said.
The name for the brand derives from posts that show up on Instagram and Facebook feeds of key moments in a person’s life and that the social media sites tag: On this day. “What a cool statement, to celebrate great moments in time,” the source said. “They wanted the brand to be built with storytelling like that.”
That storytelling is also expected to eventually translate into collaborations next year. “A lot of people are already approaching them about collaborations,” a source said. “As they chart a course for the future, it’s a way to add value around the brand.”
Although the John Varvatos label had become known for its association with musicians, OTD is expected to partner with a wider variety of people and companies in the worlds of art, architecture and other culturally relevant fields.
OTD has also assembled a group of executives to work on the brand — several, including Schuck, who had been involved with the John Varvatos company before its bankruptcy and sale. These early employees are also equity holders in the business.
While these executives have experience running a designer brand and everything that entails such as runway shows, there are no plans to mimic that with OTD.
“They’d rather connect with things outside of fashion like cultural events,” said one source. “Of course, fashion will drive the brand, but they will connect culturally by partnering with movies, art, things like that.”
Editor’s Note: Mentalities is a new, deep-dive weekly feature running every Monday that will focus on designers, executives and personalities in men’s wear, as well as business and design trends. It is an addition to WWD’s regular, up-to-the-minute coverage of the sector.