New York Fashion Week: Men's most valuable player, John Varvatos

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

(c) 2015, The Washington Post.

NEW YORK — Fashion is not a sport, but it does require a team effort to succeed. And during the inaugural New York Fashion Week: Men's, designer John Varvatos was the most valuable player.

His Thursday night fashion show served as the finale to four days of runway presentations and tableaux vivants. It was not the most provocative collection. It wasn't even one of his strongest, as he played on mostly one note: the skinny striped suit of the British rockers who landed in California two generations ago and exerted their influence over the music scene.

The suits were skinny. The jackets were short. The pants were tight. The models had long, flowing hair or artfully mussed short locks.

But the show exuded importance and that's what mattered. The blank loft space on the western edge of Soho was transformed with hundreds of black umbrellas suspended from the rafters and a runway covered in taupe and black ribbon striped fabric. Major retailers settled into front-row seats. Top editors perched on bleachers. Celebrities rolled in.

Varvatos has traditionally debuted his collection in Europe, but he shifted the entire production to New York in order to give this city's menswear week a fashion brand with a large footprint — one that would resonate with a wide audience, including the few international editors who came in for the collections.

American menswear has only a handful of major names that are associated with fashion — rather than athletic wear, suits or denim. Calvin Klein's Italo Zucchelli debuted his collection in Italy as usual. In New York, the brand offered a repeat of what had already been seen — on mannequins rather than live models.

Ralph Lauren showed his Polo division at the company's Madison Avenue offices — a world away from the hub of the men's shows. For spring, Polo is focused on a softer jacket shoulder, bracing colors and a broader range of performance sportswear as an alternative to the likes of Nike or Under Armour.

The designer was not on hand to talk up the collection, but his brother, Jerry Lauren, who oversees menswear, was there to point to the lighter fabrics and to boast about the uptown-downtown range of customers who embrace the brand.

Tommy Hilfiger also mounted a presentation of brightly colored suits from the brand's tailored collection — clothes more likely to be seen in Europe than here in the States where the company is more focused on sportswear.

But none had the resonance of John Varvatos, whose collection did more than make a sales pitch for its own worth. It helped to underscore the rising value of this city's menswear overall.