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Fashion: The Island of Varvatos

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Rob Lowe is a fan. So is Dylan McDermott. And with his new SoHo shop perfectly positioned on Mercer Street, designer John Varvatos, whose shearling coats and soft three-button suits have won brand-name recognition since he first showed them last February, is poised to attract more top-billing traffic. An afternoon with fashion's frenzied new kid on the block:

4:30 p.m. Varvatos, dressed in denim pants and a hooded navy sweater, stands before a table littered with ankle boots in his Flatiron showroom. His line, which falls somewhere between the Gucci and the Zegna ends of the spectrum, is backed by Nautica (Varvatos revamped Nautica's jeans line and sits on its board of directors). Last June, before a single sweater had hit the shelves, Varvatos, who spent seventeen years at Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, won the CFDA's Perry Ellis award for menswear. "I guess the last designer to get any big press was Tommy," he says. "But that's a different kind of thing."

5:15 p.m. A car is waiting to take Varvatos to his boutique, strategically sandwiched between the Merc Bar and the Mercer hotel. "There's a great group of people staying there," he says as the car weaves around Washington Square. "Last weekend I saw Paul McCartney and his new girlfriend."

5:45 p.m. Varvatos's manager points him toward the back of the store, where actor Ron Rifkin announces he's just bought one suit, two sport jackets, three pairs of shoes, a hat, and a dickey. "Normally I only wear Issey, Yohji, and Commes des Garçons," says Rifkin. "But you blend in the Japanese aesthetic."

6 p.m. Varvatos fixes collars on sweaters, points out that the olive canvas on the couch is the same material he uses for bags, and notes, running a finger along the seam, that the pin stitch on the coffee table's leather trim also appears on his footwear.

6:15 p.m. The designer's publicist opens a GQ to a shot of Varvatos and Eric McCormack from Will & Grace, whom he dresses. "Kevin Huvane from CAA got down on his knees in front of John at Il Cantinori," the publicist kvells.

6:30 p.m. As if on cue, in walks Matthew Broderick, holding a silver motorcycle helmet. He goes straight for the dickeys: "Can I try one on?" Broderick, it turns out, came by because he ran into fellow actor Jonathan Pryce -- who'd just left with a three-quarter-length gray wool tweed coat.


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