John Varvatos Talks Politics at New York Men's Show

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John Varvatos

“What’s gone on the last 10 days in this country has been ludicrous,” the designer said after presenting his fall 2017 collection.

John Varvatos dubbed his fall 2017 collection “Wild at Heart,” and the luxe, rock-and-roll animal prints on everything from a biker jacket to a topcoat worn by Machine Gun Kelly, who flew in from London to walk the finale, comprised the literal definition.

But there was another sentiment at work under the surface. Like many menswear designers during this season of New York Fashion Week, Varvatos isn’t mincing words about the events of the past two weeks. “What’s gone on the last 10 days in this country has been ludicrous,” he said, adding that in the midst of fittings with models, he pulled no punches. “I told them they need to use their voices, because they didn’t use them in the election. But they need to use them now, because they’re complaining about everything that’s happening.”

Varvatos, who has cast Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, Lenny Kravitz, Jimmy Page and many more rock icons in his menswear campaigns, wanted the collection to convey that fashion is about freedom of expression, “about young people using their voice in any way today — number one to express themselves, but also to express what they need to say about what’s going on in this crazy world.”

In the front row, Jesse Tyler Ferguson — who met Varvatos when the designer did the groomsmen’s suits for Joe Manganiello's and Sofia Vergara’s Palm Beach wedding — agreed. “We’re in very trying times,” said Ferguson, whose Tie the Knot collection of bow ties raises funds for LGBTQ organizations throughout the U.S. “We won the right to marry, but keeping equality is so important right now. It’s scary waking up every day, but it’s also exciting, because every day we see another reason to use our voice and to march.”

Such an idea feels natural to Varvatos; after all, what’s more rock-and-roll than rebellion? “When you consider the idea of the rebel spirit, using your voice, being loud,” Varvatos said, “that’s definitely more important now than ever.”

On the runway, he excelled at combining rock-and-roll edge with a bit of a British-dandy personality, and that was seen in the lush textures and the effortless layering of a chenille crewneck sweater, vest with burnished buttons and double-breasted pinstripe suit, for example, and the olive-hue coat in washed velvet with a leopard-print lining paired with a wool vest and ultra-skinny jeans. “We knew we were on the right track when the models started coming in, and they were all so into it," the designer said.

The models weren’t alone. “It takes a special person to be able to actually wear a leopard coat, but John Varvatos makes it seem like it’s wearable enough that you actually can pull it off,” said Neil Patrick Harris after the show; Harris was joined on the front row by husband David Burtka, as well as Ferguson, Griffin Dunne and Colton Haynes. “I’d feel super sexy [wearing] it,” Harris added, “but I can’t say that about a lot of designers because I’d feel like I was posing. But for some reason his clothes not only look so chic but also look so comfortable. Loved it.”

Burtka agreed. “It was pure sex — I feel a little randy after that show."