Many other designers are looking to reconstruct menswear, finishing their garments as exquisitely as possible, but John Varvatos took the opposite route for spring. He chose instead to break down not just the structure of his clothes, but also the surface of the fabrics they were made from. Leather was laundered until it shrank, wools were rolled with plaster, knits were washed with coffee for a prestained effect, hems were frayed or torn apart and hand-stitched back together. Figure in the beaten-up accessories (shoes worn sockless, natch), and you had a composite image of a chic hobo, someone not a million miles away from Varvatos's current poster boy, the worn rock-warrior Iggy Pop. But if the dip- and garment-dyeing, the distressing and perforating, offered a master class in the pre-aging of clothes, these calculated imperfections didn't quite add up to the coherent force of Varvatos's fall showing. That said, Varvatos's unerring eye for detail yielded stand-out pieces, like a toggle-closed leather jacket and a snaky black linen suit. And the accessories, however battered, were also strongbruised but unbowed.
For his second line, John Varvatos USA, the rockophile designer dropped last season's college boy in the bowels of Irving Plaza circa '84. There was a New Wave flair to the shiny black suit worn with black-and-white striped rugby shirt and skinny tie, and a foretaste of grunge in the wrecked tees. Nice touch: One guy looked like he'd borrowed his dad's glen-plaid sports jacket.