John Varvatos has always had a close relationship with the music world. Perhaps it's that idea of kindred spirits – mavericks lingering on the outside, inspired by, but slightly at odds with, the world around them.
Back in 2005 the designer opened a flurry of collaborations with musicians, including performance clips and photography - something that continues to this day. For the first time, though, John Varvatos will expand on that trademark black and white palette for a special partnership with silken-voiced Irish singer Hozier.
Speaking to Clash, Hozier reveals that he was absolutely blown away by the offer to work with the designer. “It's been really, really cool. He's a very interesting dude, I've got to say. He's a man of many worlds. He's crazy about music, obviously; he's incredibly well versed with anything to do with rock 'n' roll. It was good to just talk to him. Thrilled to be a part of it – thrilled to be asked, to be honest.”
“As part of his campaigns for the clothes he gets a lot of musicians involved,” he continues. “The recent one was Gary Clark Jr. and Jimmy Page. And the likes of Iggy Pop. It's cool to be among those names. That's how big they are, I suppose, that guys like that want to be involved.”
For his part, Hozier is hardly an unknown quantity. The singer's self-titled debut – an inspired fusion of blues, gospel, country and his own Irish heritage – has sold more than one million copies worldwide, a startling figure for such a humble, self-effacing talent. Invited to meet with John Varvatos, he was eager to step out-with his comfort zone as much as possible.
“His office is based in the Lower East Side, so a lot of it was getting there, getting to meet that team, and finding what they were thinking of. And I think it's evolved with the clothes line, with his upcoming Autumn/Winter line. He had some great ideas, and has done some great work in the past. A lot of it was just trusting them, trusting his vision, and coming with it. And I suppose being a part of it.”
Hozier took part in a number of shoots, including a special live performance of his stand-out, soulful belter 'To Be Alone' directed by the phenomenal visual artist Danny clinch. “It's not quite a music video, it's like a live session, I suppose,” the singer explains. “We were shooting this thing in a place in New Jersey, which I think it's called the Art Factory. Some ancient, ancient building that was just built into a mountain, so there's a lot of interesting things to spot.”
He admits, though, that music videos offer some tricky tests. “A lot of artists find the music video thing really, really difficult. Because you're dealing with a medium where you feel like you're working. It's tricky. You're coming at it from a point of view where you wrote a song, and then trying to do something that embodies that song in video.”
“But over time, I've learned a lot. It's outside of your field and it can be quite rewarding to just take a step back and enjoy the work of somebody who has those skills, who has that talent.”
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It seems that the entire experience of working with John Varvatos has left an indelible stamp on Hozier's outlook, on his approach to visual mediums – in fact, he could even be tempted to do the whole thing over again. “It's something I'll look into when it comes,” he says. “For the moment, it was a great experience, it was great to do it. It's an interesting thing to see somebody who's so good at what they do, just do what they do... and to get to enjoy that. He's a total dude. And it's nice to be among the roster of artists he's worked with. I'll have to see, but yeah – you never know.”
For now, though, the singer is beginning to sketch out plans for his second album. After such a long time on the road, he explains, it will be a nice feeling to close the studio door and simply focus on his artistry. “A lot of ideas come and go, so I have to catch 'em, put 'em down, and keep 'em for later. But, for me, to turn those ideas into songs takes a bit of time, and it takes space. Space away from people.”
“But you're never alone when you're on tour, you're living in the pockets of umpteen other people,” he says. “And you're always doing something, you're always being pulled one way or another, so it's hard to find that space, to create that space, where you can write songs. Over the next few months I'm going to take some time out and work on the album.”
A Wicklow boy, he believes a return to the Irish countryside is necessary to add extra fire to those studio sessions. “I thought about moving to a city, but I work well in a quiet space and I don't want to be too distracted,” he explains. “Ireland is still home, for the moment. And I've got a lot of figuring out to do, so I may as well go home. It's all good. I'm looking forward to re-connecting.”
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