The musical inspirations of renowned US menswear designer John Varvatos are never too far away from each successive collection. Calling upon his musician friends and heroes to demonstrate his wares, past campaigns have featured the likes of Jimmy Page and Iggy Pop modeling his latest range, looking resplendent in clean, timeless designs.
For his Autumn/Winter 2012 collection, he paired up the eternally dapper Modfather, Paul Weller, with upstart counterpart Miles Kane, in slim, ’60s-inspired suits, shooting the pair on the streets of New York. Three years later, Paul and John were reunited for an evening of chat, as last week the two delved into a long conversation on music and style in front of an audience in the John Varvatos London store, on Conduit Street.
More than just a pals’ reunion, or a chance to compare socks, it marked the launch of a special Paul Weller pop-up shop that will run for a limited time in the store, which includes a Real Stars Are Rare capsule, Saturns Pattern deluxe vinyl box set, and the Into Tomorrow book and vinyl set.
Hours before their public pow wow, Clash sat down with John and Paul to discuss their mutual tastes, the desire to continually innovate, and Weller’s questionable hairdos from his past.
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John: I was just telling Paul that I was walking down the street in Paris yesterday and Robert Plant called me. He’s playing in New York tomorrow and wanted to know if I was going to come along. I told him that we were doing this event with Paul, and he was complimenting Paul: number one, his whole career, and that he’s always been his own guy and true to himself and never satisfied - always trying to change it up and push the envelope - and it’s pretty great. I loved your comment when you played in New York. They said, ‘You could have played the Beacon Theater,’ and you said, ‘I didn’t want all those people sitting down!’ He played at a maybe 1500-capacity, something like that, and he could have played a 35,000-seater, but he said he wanted everybody standing up, and it was such a great energy in the audience.
Paul: It’s always good to play New York. The Apollo is a great gig. I loved that.
John: I loved when I asked you how you were feeling at the Apollo and you said you were nervous. Because, right before the show, you were playing in this hall that… It’s a special place, right?
Paul: Yeah! Imagine all those people… There’s that stone, isn’t there, that they touch for good luck before they go on stage. I just think of all those hands that have touched that good luck totem. All of them: James Brown, Motown, the whole lot.
You mentioned about being progressive, always wanting to change - neither of you are ones to rest on your laurels; why is it so important for you to keep innovating?
Paul: I don’t mean this in an arrogant way, but I think if you’re a creative person, then you’re always kinda looking to move things along - ‘Where else can I go? Where can I take this?’ From painters to photographers - anything creative in the arts - if you’re a true artist, I think you’ll always look to do something else. ‘Where else can I go with it?’ Do you know what I mean?
John: And it can get boring. Not the playing the songs necessarily, or doing the clothes. You know, you need stimulus.
Paul: Yeah, otherwise you just start going through the motions, I think. It’s tougher in your game, though, definitely.
John: (Laughs) There’s only a handful of people like you that can write songs like that, so that’s really tough.
Paul: Yeah, but I only put an album out every two or three years. You’re working on your Autumn Winter ’16 collection.
John: Yeah, we do six collections a year.
John: Yeah, it’s crazy, but I look for that stimulation constantly. I’m looking for inspiration and stimulation. I would also say we get a little bored. Not bored with what we’ve done…
Paul: Bored with the process.
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I don’t mean this in an arrogant way, but I think if you’re a creative person, then you’re always kinda looking to move things along...
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John: Yeah, you don’t wanna do the same thing. You want to push it, you want to play around, and I do think it’s a creative thing - I don’t think it’s an ego thing at all; it’s what excites you. It’s like your latest album - from the first note from when you put it on, you know sonically that something is changing here, you know? You know he’s on the move again. Like, he doesn’t want to get comfortable. (Laughs)
It’s the same for the listener: you don’t want to hear the same thing 12 times.
Paul: Some people do, mate. There’s a lot of that around as well, isn’t there? The whole nostalgia thing, and just sticking with what you always liked and what you know and not taking a chance on something or expanding. I think especially after a certain age, as well, you know? Which I don’t understand, because there’s such a wealth of great music, clothes or whatever. There is so much great stuff out there, that why would you not still be interested if you’ve grown up in that kind of culture?
John: It’s interesting that we were just talking about Robert Plant, too, because he’s still doing all kinds of interesting things - whether anybody likes it or not. He’s pushing. He doesn’t need to
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It’s a global fashion thing; because of the Internet it has gotten really small. It’s cluttered, but it’s gotten small.
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