Paul Weller on His New John Varvatos Fashion Ad Campaign (Q&A)

John Varvartos

Britain's Father of Mod reflects on his iconic style and his first-ever fashion ad campaign -- with an American menswear designer, no less.

American menswear designer John Varvatos makes beautiful suits and bespoke clothes, but there’s always an element of '60s-era Rolling Stones mod in them. To that end, Varvatos has used the likes of Iggy Pop, Green Day, Chris Cornell, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant as “faces” -- or bodies, if you will -- to embody his overall aesthetic in ad campaigns.

Now his new video and print campaign features the “Modfather” of British rock, Paul Weller, who headed up The Jam in the '80s, The Style Council in the '90s, and has a serious following as a solo artist now. Weller just released Sonic Kicks, for which he’s touring Europe, and will hit L.A. at The Greek on October 19.

Rock photographer Danny Clinch shot the campaign with Weller (his 17th for Varvatos) and Brit newcomer Miles Kane near the old CBGB’s in New York, which is now the site of Varvatos boutique. The images were inspired by some of the early Mod portraits of Weller. In the video version of it, which can be seen on the John Varvatos website, Weller and Kane, both dresses in tailored dark Mod looks and eyewear, keep visiting a very retro looking New York pawn shop.

The Hollywood Reporter got a chance to talk to Weller, currently passing through Italy on his solo tour, about doing the campaign, wearing John Varvatos, the new album – and the new twins he had with his wife (and former back up singer), Hannah, in January 2012.

The Hollywood Reporter: How did you first hear about John Varvatos?

Paul Weller: In the States. I had bought some of his clothes in the States before. His things are hard to find in England. I like what he does, he’s got a different twist in menswear, really. For the campaign, I picked the stuff I would wear naturally. I wouldn’t wear what I wouldn’t wear naturally. I picked what suited me.

THR: You are so often associated with the word “Mod,” it always seems to come up when your name comes up, whether it’s about music or clothes. How do you feel about that?

Weller: I don’t mind talking about it, it’s a big part of what I am and who I am. I’m happy to talk about it -- or not talk about it. For me, it’s a way of life. It is what it is. It’s a religious thing for people in England for many decades, a code, a way of dressing and living. It’s evolved and adapted, that’s why it endures. There are certain things that never go out of fashion, and are always adaptable. The fashion industry recycles Mod their way -- but it’s the lifestyle and historical connection in England that people are more attracted to.

THR: You’re a fashion icon in your way, your style has always been pronounced, written about, profoundly cool -- but you’ve never done a clothing campaign before. Why now?

Weller: Honestly, I thought it was fun. I like John’s stuff, and I liked the idea of shooting in New York, particularly being near the old CBGB site idea. It seemed different than normal fashion ads, and it didn’t feel compromising to me. If someone asked me to wear something I hate, I wouldn’t have done it. We had a real laugh doing it, actually. Miles Kane is a mate. All the people involved were lovely and treated us very well. It was the firs time I’ve been back to CBGB’s in like twenty five years!

THR: Do you always dress sharp, or do you ever just wear jeans and t-shirts?

Weller: I wear jeans and a T-shirt sometimes. I just like clothes -- since the first time I can remember, like age ten or eleven; I was just obsessed with music and clothes. Just like a lot of people in England from my generation. If you’re into a certain band, you’re into the way they dress. 

THR: You’re on tour now, you have a new record. You don’t really have to work this hard! You could rest on your laurels a little, no?  

Weller: I’m always looking for something. Not in an unhappy way. I just like to try different things. I don’t want to be morbid, but I’m not getting any younger. I want to see where and how far I can go as an artist. I look back and see what I’ve done, and I want to do as much as I can in my lifetime. I love doing it. If I didn’t have that passion or love for it, I wouldn’t do it.

THR: And you have tiny little newborns at home!

Weller: Yes, two little ones, they just turned six months this Saturday. I’ve always worked, but I have slowed down a lot of the touring to be with the family. The little ones are coming to a music festival this weekend we’re playing in England.