Talk of the town in New York this past week has been the announcement made by John Varvatos Enterprises, that the brand ( is to open it’s new boutique in the former location of the much feted CBGBs music venue. This landmark building, former venue of seminal moments in rock history, and much debauchery indeed, closed it’s doors last year and has remained empty ever since.

The opportunity to take over the defunct club arose when Varvatos was viewing the adjacent space at 313 Bowery for an entirely separate purpose. Overwhelmed by a desire to see the shuttered venue where he had attended countless shows over the years, Varvatos asked the lease-holder if he could take a look. Once inside, the designer was inspired to do what he could to help keep the spirit of CBGB’s alive in its original East Village location.

“The space had been empty for the better part of a year as we searched for the right tenant. John Varvatos is ideal because he has a real reverence for the history of the space and every intention of honoring its legacy” said Elliott Azrak of Azrak Capital Group. Azrak’s Rebel Rebel Realty took over the lease in 2006 after the exit of long-time tenant Hilly Kristal.

John Varvatos - the man and the brand- has ties to the world of music that run deep. An avid fan of such bands as Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Replacements, and The New York Dolls since his teen years growing up in Detroit, Varvatos now features legendary rockers in his advertising campaigns. The ads, photographed by Grammy-nominated music documentarian Danny Clinch, have showcased Slash, Ryan Adams, Alice Cooper, and CBGB-alum Iggy Pop, wearing Varvatos’ signature designs.

With a nod to The Ramones, Varvatos also collaborates with Converse on a line of sneakers and clothing. In addition, Varvatos has played host to an array of legendary rockers including The New York Dolls who performed at the launch of the Converse by John Varvatos clothing collection, Jesse Malin at The Highline to benefit Free Arts NYC, and most recently, Perry Farrell at a benefit for the VH1 Save The Music Foundation, a charity of which John is also a board member.

Frequent CBGB performer and East Village local, Jesse Malin, commented “After getting to know John over the years and seeing him host wonderful live music performances, I can't think of anyone better to keep the spirit and soul of rock music alive on the Bowery in the old CBGB's location.”

Varvatos is thrilled about the new location that comprises 3,300 square feet in the original club space. “This store is going to be totally unique, different from our other boutiques,” said the designer. “We’re going to make it a great way to look back at this remarkable history but also forward to what’s happening in music today.” Among the many ideas being considered for the new store are a special merchandise mix geared to a rock & roll customer, a stage permanently integrated into the store design, an in-store performance series featuring up and coming musical artists, and a new John Varvatos collection designed specifically for 315 Bowery; from which a portion of the proceeds would benefit an artist development fund. “I think it’s great … now all the old CBGB punks will become the best dressed CBGB punks in the world” declared Alice Cooper.

CBGB OMFUG (Country, Blue Grass and Blues and Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers) was founded in 1973 and quickly forsook its namesake musical styles to become a forum for rock and punk bands including Blondie, Talking Heads, Television, Patti Smith Group, Richard Hell & the Voidoids, The Ramones, and Green Day. The club closed in October 2006. The final show on its stage was performed by Patti Smith.

Launched in 2000, John Varvatos’ lifestyle collection is comprised of John Varvatos Collection, John Varvatos USA, Converse by John Varvatos - clothes for guys and girls, John Varvatos Eyewear, and John Varvatos SKIN and Fragrance. Varvatos has been recognized three times by the CFDA with an American Fashion Award for New Menswear Designer (June 2000) and Menswear Designer of the Year (June 2001 and June 2005). The collection is distributed internationally and in five freestanding John Varvatos boutiques in the U.S.

- Fay Cantor-Stephens