New York: So what makes a man stylish?
John Varvatos: It starts with simplicity, not being overstyled or complicated. And with things that feel like they have a bit of a heritage, even though they may not, but there’s a sense about them that they have a life span and it’s not just for the moment. It’s also the way you carry yourself. We start off sometimes like we’re designing this for an artist—whether it’s a painter, photographer, musician, or whatever—someone who’s creative, because creative people are generally more comfortable with themselves, and they also tend to be more eclectic in the way they put themselves together.
Pete Yorn: I don’t have that much stuff. It’s important for me to have a couple of jackets. As long as I have two or three jackets that I like, then it’s like a new outfit. Or “I changed today!” Plus I’m always in a different city, so I can get away with wearing the same thing two days in a row and no one knows except the band.
JV: They don’t care.
PY: Some of these guys are wearing the same shirt for four days. It’s like, “Come on, guys!”
NY: John, how did you get into fashion?
JV: It was kind of through music. When I was in high school, I really wanted to look cool, so I was always trying to dress like a rock star. Then at the end of my high-school days, I started working at a cool men’s store. And I worked my way through college selling clothes.
NY: Your clothes tend to have a mix-and-match eclecticism.
JV: I don’t like things that are so uniform. I like people who mix things and come up with their own sense of style. That’s always been my thing. I don’t want to feel like I’m wearing everything so perfectly thought-out. Even though oftentimes you do, you don’t want to have it come across like you thought it out so much.
PY: That’s exactly it.
JV: You want it to look like you just threw it together, but the whole thrown-together thing looks amazing.
PY: I wasn’t sure how the shoot was going to work, but we just mixed it. I’d say, “I like that piece,” and just throw it on with what I was already wearing. And I’m always wearing old T-shirts and jeans and stuff like that. But it felt natural.
JV: Those are the ones that I like the best. The ones that feel like it just came together. Especially with what you do, you don’t want to look like a fashion model. You want to look like a rock star. Right? You want it to look like you kind of just threw it together.
PY: I’m the worst about wearing the same three stupid T-shirts for like two years.
JV: But there’s something about those T-shirts that you like. Either the fit or the wash or whatever it is. You wouldn’t wear any T-shirt, so you wear those three. Because they’re amazing T-shirts. That’s why I still have those pieces in my wardrobe—because I can’t give them up.
NY: Such as?
JV: A lot of vintage jeans and jackets and leather motorcycle jackets. Things that I wear more than anything because they just feel comfortable. I also like the attitude. I’ll throw them on with something dressy, and they kind of bring it down to a point that is more my sense of style.
NY: So, Pete, what got you interested in music in the first place?
PY: I have two older brothers, and they were always in bands, and they were always practicing in my basement. I would just sit down there and watch them play.
JV: What kind of music?
PY: Early on, it was Judas Priest covers. I was really into Iron Maiden and Judas Priest from a young age, but for some reason they never really inspired me—until I started listening to the Smiths, and all of a sudden I became very connected to the whole look of the thing and the way the music made me feel.
JV: A little different songwriting style, too.
PY: Yeah, very different. But because I was growing up in suburban New Jersey, it seemed really exotic. I wanted to dress like a little Morrissey with the hair and the glasses and the whole deal. I even would try to sing English-sounding when I was a teenager. Then I discovered other things, like R.E.M.
JV: Must be cool to tour with them.