BACKSTAGE WITH AT JOHN VARVATOS
January 14, 2014
Interview by Nick Carvell

John Varvatos has made a name for himself by employing some of the biggest names in music to front his campaigns (see: Paul Weller, Iggy Pop, Willie Nelson). However, this season the New York designer took it to a whole new level, not only by announcing rock band Kiss as his label's latest frontmen, but also by having them take to the catwalk in full make-up (and his latest line of suiting) to close his show in Milan - a move that lead to the longest standing ovation of show season so far. After the applause died down, we headed backstage to catch up with the guys on their new gig, but - as we should have expected - it wasn't your traditional Q&A. In between the flashbulbs, swarming fashion crowd and occasional bum pinches from a certain long-tongued bandmember (flatteringly directed at us, not the female fans as you might expect), we found five minutes to talk with Paul Stanley, Eric Singer, Tommy Thayer and of course Gene Simmons about what items they wanted from the runway, why few bands today can live up to the classics and why life is like a buffet.

GQ: Did you and John Varvatos bond over any particular music during this collaboration?

Tommy Thayer: Not anything specifically, but John is a big fan of Sixties and Seventies rock 'n' roll obviously…

Eric Singer: Hendrix definitely.

Paul Stanley: Well more than songs, I think this all started because we're all fans of a certain style. Besides loving music there's a certain look that really originated in the early Sixties and Seventies that came from people sourcing their clothes in places like Kensington Market or the East Village in New York. What's great about John's work is that he combines familiar elements from that period with something that is timeless. I'm not a fan of fashion because fashion is temporary. Fashion is all about selling something this year and then making sure someone buys something else next year. Style is timeless.


Have you ever worn anything you now regret?

PS: Well we all wore parachute pants way back when and in the Eighties I perhaps wore some things that were perhaps better suited to my Mom. But big mistakes? No, I can't say I've ever worn anything that's made me cringe.

TT: I think things usually go wrong when people try too hard.

ES: I think we had some major faux-pas in the Eighties - white cycling pants and spandex and leg warmers. But you know what? It was all relative to the time.

TT: One thing that was great about the Eighties - even though it was kind of a goofy period style-wise - was that women were great back then. They dressed very rock 'n' roll, lots of lingerie, all very sexy and out there. Wannabe groupies just don't do that anymore.


What item do you want from the catwalk?

PS: Lots. I said to John that as soon as the show finished I'd want to go shopping! Obviously there was that silver bomber jacket in croc or alligator.

ES: There was this metallic, shearling-y jacket that had a sheen to it. That was my favourite.

Gene Simmons: I like the long coats. I don't like men all squashed into short-ass jackets. The one that was split cotton and leather was good.

TT: I like the things with a bit of silver in them. Obviously. [gestures at his metallic make-up]


Your live shows are always incredible. Which bands have impressed you in concert?

PS: When it comes to music, you can't do better than Led Zeppelin or The Beatles. Problem is the greats have left their mark and the best that bands do nowadays is just remind you of those.

ES: Pink is amazing. She is a great performer and her band is great. I like Lady Gaga - I think she is also great. She's done something very much along the lines of what Kiss is about in that she dresses herself up in an image, but people forget that she is actually an amazing singer and songwriter when you strip that away. She's got the goods to back it up.


Is there anything people still get wrong about Kiss?

TT: I think in the beginning people looked at Kiss as a bit of a "comic book" band, but I think over time we've managed to prove them wrong.

PS: I don't care. Life is so short. It's barely long enough to connect with the people who like you - it certainly isn't long enough to make converts of the ones who don't.

And Gene, what's been your wildest night out?

GS: April 18th.

ES: With Gene that could be any night of the week. Pick a day!

GS: I always say life is a buffet and you just have to reach out, grab what's there and go to town. [reaches out for female fan in the crowd]


What is the strangest thing you've ever received from a fan?

PS: Probably a virus.

We'll leave it there then. Thank you for speaking with us.

ES: Not at all. Say sorry to the Queen for us about breaking away from your country back in the day.