Rock Steady: An Interview With Menswear Designer John Varvatos

Photo by Kareem Worrell 

At a party celebrating his newest store opening in Boston, menswear designer John Varvatos greets guests out front as he nurses a Starbucks cup. Inside, the new boutique is packed full of Pretty Young Things - men with perfectly tailored jackets and perfectly rumpled hair, and their equally well-heeled arm candy. Rajon Rondo, the fashion-loving Celtics point-guard, is bartending, and there’s a buzz among the locals that they must’ve shipped people up from New York to populate Beantown with such a display of well-groomed dudes.

A real industry veteran, Varvatos has been in fashion for 30 years - longer than many of the evening’s guests have been alive. He’s accumulated more rock star devotees than any other menswear designer, and his ad campaigns have featured a range of musicians from Willy Nelson to Dave Matthews. His clothing has become something of a uniform for Hall-of-Famers, up-and-comers, and urban dandies alike. Varvatos knows menswear inside and out, but he’s just as happy to talk about music. His eyes light up with delight when he recounts the musicians and bands that he’s shared the stage with, reliving the rush of his oldest and fondest dream - being a Rock Star.

Born and raised in a crowded but nurturing Greek home in Detroit, Varvatos got his start in fashion at 29 - much later than most of the still wet-behind-the-ears wunderkind that these days tend to be more of a flash in the pan than someone with the same staying power as the perpetually leather jacket-clad designer.

With a handful of new stores in Asia slated to open in 2014 - his first outside of the USA -  we wanted to know: What’s Varvatos’ key to longevity? Passion, a solid Greek work ethic, and a whole lot of Rock and Roll.

Above: Celtics player Rajon Rondo bartending for JV at the party this fall; Below: The interior of the new store. Photos by Paul Marotta/Getty Images for John Varvatos


RENATA CERTO-WARE: My questions might be out of order, just warning you.
JOHN VARVATOS: Doesn’t matter, I’m out of order.

RCW: Hey, we all are - You’re Greek, I’m Sicilian, we’re all a little crazy. So, you’ve got a flagship store in NYC, an outdoor concert series at the Sunset Marquis in LA, and roots in Detroit Rock City. Where’s your main base?
JV: New York!

RCW: What’s your second home, Detroit or LA?
JV: Well I grew up in Detroit, but today, I would say probably LA - I have more friends in LA than I do in New York.

RCW: Where do you go to just relax when you need to get away from the whole fashion scene?
JV: I have a little house in upstate New York on a lake. It’s not in a fashionable area, not in the Hamptons. It’s out in farm country - I’m with real people, and the minute I open up the door to my lake house, I’m in another world; I shut everything else out.

RCW: Is there anything in fashion that you find men are afraid to try? Have you been surprised by your customers embracing something you put out there that you thought was a little bit risky?
JV: I think in general, men have always been a little more cautious than women - proportions in womenswear change all the time, and they go with it, they love everything new. Guys are more about an evolution than a revolution - most guys. But, it’s changing, and guys are much more willing to try things today. I will definitely say that in shoes, guys are really willing to try new things. Guys used to have a black pair of shoes, a brown pair of shoes, and sneakers. Now they have shoe closets - they’re like girls now! That’s the biggest thing - now guys want boots, they want wingtips, they want this and that - they love shoes! I love shoes...

RCW: What will we never see on your runway? Is there anything that you know just doesn’t work for you or your line?
JV: I’ll never put fur on the runway - I’m not ever going to do fur.

RCW: Is that because of your personal beliefs, or you just don’t like the way it looks on men?
JV: It’s kind of a belief thing, I guess. I don’t feel that I need to show fur, there are things that we do show that we don’t need to kill an animal just for their fur. And, I’ll never have square-toed shoes.

RCW: Not even after Marc Jacobs’ square-toed shoe revival?
JV: Especially not after that! Those were pilgrim shoes!

RCW: Would you ever consider casting a female rocker in your ads?
JV: I’ve thought about it many times, and it may happen at some point.

RCW: Who’s your go-to gal?
JV: I don’t really want to say, because the ads are always surprises. I did just finish a book about Rock and Roll and fashion that’s coming out on October 15th and there’s a whole section on female rockers in there - there aren’t near as many, as you know, but I love chick rockers.

RCW: How do you feel about women wearing menswear? Love it or hate it?
JV: I love Patti Smith. Patti Smith was an icon for me, I love what she did. I even love when Madonna wears menswear-inspired clothing, and I just saw Rihanna wearing what looked like a men’s suit and she looked amazing! She can look good in everything.

RCW: You’re so inspired by Rock and Roll, you’re from Detroit Rock City, and you have a store in the former CBGB space. Do you have any musical talent of your own? Have you ever thought about starting a rock band?
JV: Oh, yeah - when I was a kid I always wanted to start a band. Not anymore, because what ends up happening as you’re around all these amazing musicians is you start to know that you’re not really very good! I do play guitar, but I don’t play very well. I collect guitars, and I just bought a beautiful vintage guitar - a 1962 Gretsch, and I showed it to my wife and she said “You need to take lessons again.” She knows I’m really passionate and I keep telling her I want to take lessons. When she sees me play she’s always very surprised that I’m better than she thinks I am. And, I’ve been lucky enough to play with a lot of big artists.

RCW: Which is worse - playing on stage, or being backstage right before a runway show is about to start?
JV: Actually, being backstage at my runway show! I don’t know why, I guess it’s in the whole excitement of the concert and not expecting to be asked to play. It’s one thing if they were to tell me beforehand “Ok, on the fourth song, you’re going to sing or play”, but it’s always been when I’m in the audience, like “John, you gotta get up here and do this song with me!” I’ve played with ZZ Top, Alice Cooper, KISS. Cheap Trick - I played guitar and sang with those guys. I sang “Surrender”: “Mommy’s alright, Daddy’s alright”. There’s more, many more. Guns and Roses - doesn’t get any better than that!

RCW: And that wasn’t more nerve-racking than a runway show?
JV: It happens so quickly and it’s just so loud they really can’t tell if I’m good or not.

RCW: Do you ever find that your Greek roots come through in any of your collections, or the way you do business?
JV: I don’t know if they come through in my collections, but they definitely come through in my passion for what I do and my humility for what I do. I grew up in a 100% Greek family that was very humble - seven people in an 800 square foot house with one bathroom - and family was very important, relatives were important, the heritage was important. And now, I am very true to the heritage of my brand and have a respect for the heritage of menswear.

RCW: So how did your traditional Greek family react when you told them you were going to be in fashion? Did they accept it or did they want you to be a doctor or lawyer?
JV: Well, it’s funny because I have a degree in Education, so I didn’t go back to school to be in fashion until I was 29, but I worked in fashion - I paid my way through school by working in retail, so my parents already knew I was very into it. My father was not alive, sadly, when I really started my career, and my mother only lived for a short time after I launched my own brand, but she was unbelievably proud when I was head of design at Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren.

RCW: Who let you in? Was there one moment of pure luck where someone gave you a chance that really opened up doors and set your career in motion?
JV: I think it was working for Ralph Lauren. I wasn’t in design, I was in sales, and I really was so intrigued by the whole design process that I actually started going back to school at night, at 29 years old, and Ralph gave me the opportunity to let me in the door because he loved my sense of style and it was a huge opportunity to be in design with I would say a really limited resume but lots of passion, a good artistic hand and a good eye.

Looks from Varvatos' FW2014 Runway, Courtesy of John Varvatos

Looks from Varvatos' FW2014 Runway, Courtesy of John Varvatos

Photo by Kareem Worrell 

Simkhai Style: Getting to know CFDA-Approved Designer Jonathan Simkhai

A word to the wise: Practice getting the spelling right. Simkhai is here to stay.

By Renata Certo-Ware

Up-and-coming womenswear designer Jonathan Simkhai is more than just a (very) pretty face. At only 27, he’s wise beyond his years when it comes to understanding what makes the fashion industry - buyers, press, and clients - tick. He’s been steadily churning out several seasonal collections a year since he first started his clothing label in 2010, and has proven that he knows the business as well as the veterans.

So much so, he’s already been acknowledged by the CFDA, which has included him in its sophomore session of the {Fashion Incubator}, a two-year program that helps grow, sustain, and support fledgling fashion brands. Worldwide, W Hotels has also become a supporter of {Fashion Incubator}, which means participating designers better have their bags packed!

With a distinctive aesthetic - New York structure with a touch of carefree Cali - that references both coasts, Hollywood is taking note, too; Kristen Stewart wore a blouse and shorts from Simkhai’s pre-fall collection to introduce Bon Jovi at the 12.12.12 concert last winter.

W Hotels sent Simkhai across the globe to its location in Bangkok to soak up inspiration for upcoming collections, which we're sure to see pop up in his coming collections. Before his big trip to Asia, we caught up with the winsome designer at Louis Boston, the first retailer to pick up his clothing line three years ago, to talk shop, NYFW, and men who love women who love menswear.

You got a start in your career at Louis Boston when you did the Designer Exposure series, and now that you’re back for a trunk show, you get to talk directly to your target audience and kind of “convince them” to buy your clothes. What do you like about interacting on such a close level with clients?

I really love connecting with clients! When you’re with a customer, you can see what’s making the sale, or what’s breaking the sale. When a showroom buyer comes in, it’s like “No. Yes. No. Yes.” I’m like, “Ok, well why not?” With clients they’ll say “This doesn’t fit me”, or “I don’t like the length, I want it longer.” And of course, when somebody buys something and they see the designer, it’s so much more exciting to wear it. They feel connected and invested in the piece.

As a young designer with only a few collections under your belt, what’s the biggest challenge about getting your line into stores? Do you find that people are more or less likely to want to work with a relatively new designer?

I think people take me just as seriously as a more veteran designer, but there are challenges for new designers. Store owners and buyers have a certain budget allocated for the season, so once you show your collection, you have to break in and replace someone else to get their portion of the buyers’ budget - more dollars don’t just show up. It’s about having to prove yourself when you’re competing for shelf space with designers who have been around for so long and have built up these houses. You have to come up with something new and fresh, and find a way to inspire your consumer, show them something they haven’t already seen.

Has being acknowledged by the CFDA helped put hearts - and checkbooks - at ease?

The backing of the CFDA has definitely given me the stamp of approval. Also, I sell at Barneys, Louis, and Ikram in Chicago so I’m past the first step of buyers being hesitant, of having to prove myself.

How did you initially grab the attention of the CFDA? What do you think they saw in you that made them want to give you that extra chance?

When I started with my first season, it was kind of a slow challenge to see what was important as a designer, to figure out the whole balance between being commercially valuable and editorially valuable. My first few seasons were about figuring out that balance, juggling and going back and forth, so once I figured that out I think the CFDA appreciated that I was really understanding the nature of my business. I was creating collections that were inspiring editors and that were commercial.

A private moment with fashion's own Fire Priestess Taylor Tomasi Hill during Simkhai's presentation at Milk Studios during NYFW

Has presenting your collections at New York Fashion Week helped - or hurt - you?

I feel like a lot of designers just want to show in New York. It’s like, “Ok, well, what are you showing in New York?” And in the beginning I didn’t understand what I was showing in New York either. I took three seasons off from doing New York Fashion Week, because my sales weren’t back up the editorial exposure I was getting. I’m not getting into this business just to get into magazines. I want to make clothes and dress women. And what women want to see [in magazines] is different than what women want to wear. Those are two different things, and you have to have both. So when I took that time off, they [the CFDA] were like “Ok, he’s being responsible, he’s thinking about his business”. Now it’s about bigger collections where I can have that balance between editorial and commercial pieces.

Suzy Menkes published an article last Spring in the New York Times called “The Circus of Fashion”, about how the focus of Fashion Week has shifted as outrageous bloggers and “famous for being famous” fashion whores are creating media frenzy. Do you think it’s still about generating sales or is it all about the spectacle?

The spectacle is very important, because your buzz is what drives sales. Having these blogs write about you creates a buzz, and for the customer who sits at their desk 10 hours a day and who might not be at the shows, it helps direct sales to Shopbop.com, Net-a-porter.com. That’s really important because a lot of people really love fashion but really don’t have direct access to it. New York Fashion Week, for me, is a self-expression, a level of energy, something to be excited about. It’s great - I think you haven’t even seen the circus yet; it’s going to get even bigger!

 My top picks from Resort 2014

Your clothing is really influenced by menswear, and women’s love of menswear.

Menswear has always been a fun angle for women to dress in. There’s something really rebellious about women wearing men’s clothing, like a boyfriend’s sweatshirt, and I love dressing that rebellious kind of girl, playing with that look and making it fun.

You’ve expressed interest in also doing a menswear collection. Why did you start with womenswear?

There’s a bigger market for womenswear, and women are willing to take more risks. If they love something, they’ll push it, they’ll believe in. They’re like little birds; they’ll wear your clothes and fly around and inspire, and help spread the word. Once you get them on your side, they’ll push their boyfriends, and fathers, and brothers, and husbands to buy the clothes too.

What’s different about the way men dress versus the way women dress? Do you think men just don’t have that sense of playfulness about the way they dress?

They do, but men just pay attention to different details. I think that women usually dress for men or other women, where men just think a little bit more about “What’s comfortable?” or “What can I get away with?” I’m like that at least.

You’re born and raised in Manhattan, and have really identified with the pulse of NYC, but you newest collection has a major Cali-vibe!

For Spring/Summer 2013, I was spending a lot of time on the West Coast, and I was inspired by California in the 70’s, The Lords of Dogtown and the skate revolution. I looked to how rebellious they were and they just loved what they’re doing and didn’t care what they were wearing. I took that idea and spun it into this Cali-cool, “I didn’t try too hard” vibe.

Looks from Fall 2013

LOUIS BOSTON ON SIMKHAI: The decades-old fashion institution on why Simkhai was a shoe-in.

Jonathan Simkhai may have been knighted with the NYC-based CFDA stamp of approval, but the international success of his label can trace its beginnings to Beantown, where Louis Boston was the first retailer to pick up his clothing three years ago.

An iconic favorite from Spring/Summer 2013

Simkhai’s creative mix of masculine and feminine is what initially caught the eye of the buying team at Louis, which has been slinging high fashion to Boston’s Best-Dressed for over 100 years. “His pieces are beautiful and distinctively ambiguous, and his attention to fabrics like cashmere, wool, cotton and silk, as well as his attention to how a garment is tailored and finished, is really what made his work stand out to Louis,” explains Maria Fei, VP of Operations.

Needless to say, Simkhai stuck. “His line quickly became a part of the store's contemporary selection,” says Fei. “As a designer, Jonathan is unique. His collection has classic elements while being sexy and feminine and is perfect for the modern, urban woman.”

His aesthetic - New York structure with a touch of carefree Cali - is just the perfect formula for Boston’s chic sensibilities. Louis PR Manager Liana Krupp weighs in: “His clothes work for Boston because there's a versatility that can be incorporated with any women's closet. The way he cuts his clothes has an element of classic simplicity, without ever being boring. He’s one of the designers that get us excited about where American fashion is going!”

So what’s on the horizon for Simkhai’s upcoming collection? “True to his sporty ways, expect to see leather hoodies, bombers, and boxy pony-hair sweatshirts with girly touches.” Fei reveals. Hit up Louis now for Simkhai’s breezy Pre-Spring and Spring/Summer 2013 collections in a delicious palette of dreamy blues, chartreuse, pink and pops of neon yellow, and stay tuned for his Pre-Fall selection later this summer. 

Get Close ... with Singer-Songwriter Matt Nathanson

By Renata Certo-Ware

Matt Nathanson has been in the music business for two decades, cranking out soulful folk-rock tunes like “Come On Get Higher,” often used to set the tone on shows like Scrubs and One Tree Hill. (We’re also partial to “Laid,” his rollicking, risqué James cover that popped up throughout the American Pie flicks.) But before he played cities across the country, Nathanson grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts. He recently returned to the area for an intimate show at BOKX 109 in Newton’s Hotel Indigo, part of the Mix 104.1 “Mix Lounge” concert series. We nabbed him for a fun chat about everything from instigating make-out sessions on The Bachelor to oral sex in the olden days.

Ever consider moving back to Massachusetts? No . . . I’ve lived in San Francisco for about as long as I lived here, and I think California suits me a little better in terms of weather. I love the seasons when I can visit them. Although sometimes I think I want to move to New Hampshire and live in the woods and snowshoe around. But I’m feeling pretty California-y. There are milder seasons. My blood has thinned; I’ve become a total wimp.

Gene Simmons was an early musical influence. Any others? It was all of KISS, not just Gene — although he did spit fire, which is badass. KISS was my band. . . . From there I got into hair metal for a long time. U2 was a band that straddled the line. Growing up near Boston in the ’80s, as it still is now, it was almost a prerequisite: you gotta love the Celtics, the Sox, the Patriots, and U2. So I went to see U2 . . . and it was life-changing. Seeing them perform in Boston is like a religious experience. I’ve seen them play elsewhere, but watching them in the old Boston Garden was like watching them play to all their friends. It was the most tingling experience you could ever have.

You recently tweeted admiration for Kanye West. Is he your guilty pleasure? I was listening to his last record, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. You’re not supposed to confuse the art with the artist, and he makes it really easy because he’s not very likeable in his persona as a star — but man, he’s so good that it just doesn’t matter. But no, I don’t have guilty pleasures musically. I have television guilty pleasures: bad early-2000s dramedies. I’m embarrassed by my love of Dawson’s Creek. I like Dawson’s Creek because I can live vicariously through other people, instead of my own painful life. I was in love with Joey. . . . She could have shanked my mom, and I would have been like, “Yeah, Joey Potter, way to kill my mom!”

Do you think your recent performance on The Bachelor , where you serenaded Ben and Lindzi on a private date, influenced the heavy petting and make-out sesh that ensued? It was a lot like being the music for porn. I felt like a fluffer. It was really strange. It was just these two people getting it on. And we just played, and if we leaned into something a little funky, they really got into it. I don’t know if you’ve ever been there when people are macking, but it’s not fun; it’s not something you want to do every day. I thought they were just going to be dancing, but then they started to get their lick on.

How is your newest record, Modern Love , different from past records? It was produced more like records in the ’80s, like the Tears for Fears records and the INXS record, where the production is as big a deal as the song. We were trying to get that feel where you hear the song and it kind of feels like it was beamed in from the future, but back in the 1980s. Back to the future.

You wrote the single “Modern Love” for a female friend who dubbed herself “nobody’s girlfriend.” Why did that strike you so profoundly? I always thought that was a great line. Yeah, powerful woman! You don’t need to be anybody’s girlfriend — men suck, culture sucks, and it teaches everybody to like Jersey Shore. So I say go: be your own girlfriend.

If modern love doesn’t cut it, do you consider yourself an old-school romantic? I don’t think they had oral sex back in the olden days, so I’m not that guy. . . . I’m definitely a modern person.

Get Close... with Jason Mraz

By Renata Certo-Ware

Next month, Jason Mraz kicks off a world tour to support his latest album, Love is a Four Letter Word. But earlier this week, the Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter was in Boston to perform at MIX 104.1’s Spring Fling Concert at the Lansdowne Pub. With a cantaloupe in one hand and a knife in the other, he sat down with STUFF to answer a few random questions.

Have you been to Boston before? I was here performing at the original House of Blues. It used to be a little attic space, low ceilings. This was probably about 10 years ago, during their last season of operation, and we knew they were shutting down. We stole a light fixture out of the dressing room – it had this skull on it, it was very cool and rusty. And that night, we broke an axel on the van. We felt like we got ours – because it was all about the voodoo and stuff like that.

Was this before or after you released your album We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things.Way before.

So you’ve been consistent on that front. Oh yeah.

You’re a vegan, huh? Yeah, I focus on trying to be. It’s not always possible, and it’s not always what you want! I was just in tour in Italy, and I had to have some gelato. But basically, I try to think, “What can I do to feel my best?” If I have a coffee in the morning and put a bunch of cream in it, or if there’s a bunch of cheese around me backstage, I’m not singing my best.

Let’s say you have an awesome performance, and you feel you deserve a treat. What’s your go-to, post-show snack that you like to enjoy? After a show, I usually do oatmeal. I load it up with plant protein, with cinnamon, lots of spices. I like to spice things up.

I know you also do yoga. What’s your favorite yoga pose?Savasana  – the one at the very end where you just lay down and go to sleep. I more like a 10 hour savasana guy.

So, I couldn’t help but notice you wear a lot of hats. How big is your hat collection? Have you lost count, or is it just a few steady, trusty hats? Yeah, I kind of lost count. I no longer really have a steady - since my hair got long, none of my hats seem to fit anymore. I tried a few on before I left for tour and none of them really looked good anymore, so I grabbed a winter beanie. My hair is my hat these days.

Do you have a hair growth goal? Do you have a bet going with anyone, or are you just kind of trying it out? I don’t have a bet with anyone. I was just thinking about it this morning, I was like “Man, when are you going to cut that shit?” I feel like any time someone tells me to cut it, I have to put another month in to grow it. It’s kind of like rebelling against your parents.

You were born in Virginia, and now you live in San Diego. In the age-old east coast versus west coast rivalry, where is your heart?West coast. I feel like I’ve got more hippies on my side. New Age warriors, peaceful warriors. Yeah, I’ve got a lot of peaceful warriors on my team, should there ever be a real rivalry.

You’ve got a few tattoos – how many? About seven-ish. One was impulsive. The others were very thought out. I went in with some purpose. The one that was impulsive was a rooster that I drew on a bar napkin. I like that the rooster wakes the world up with a song. The cock is the first thing up in the morning. It’s in the tramp stamp location. So I have a black cock on my lower back. I sketched it out and brought it to the tattoo artist and he copied it. So I guess I’m the artist of this one. It’s probably my least favorite of my tattoos.

Do you have any backstage requests? Nothing crazy. I usually bring my own stock of food, so I just ask for local produce. Cantaloupe.

You have an avocado farm. Do you have a good guacamole recipe? My best guacamole recipe is adding chocolate – the powdered stuff from a natural food market. Cacao, dates, and a little agave nectar … the whole thing turns into a rich chocolate mousse. I call it Choc-amole.

Get Close... with Franca Sozzani, editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia

By Renata Certo-Ware

Photo: ROGER FARRINGTON

Franca Sozzani, editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia, is highly opinionated. And at times, she’s controversial: Sozzani was the mastermind behind VogueCurvy (a plus-size section of the Vogue Italia website) as well as the July 2008 issue that exclusively featured black models, which garnered mixed reactions. But it seems clear she is dedicated to celebrating individuality and diverse images of beauty. So we were especially curious to hear her thoughts when she joined media mogul Arianna Huffington, model Doutzen Kroes, and model/actress Amber Valletta of Revenge for April’s “Health Is Beauty: Defining Ourselves,” the Harris Center at Mass General Hospital’s 15th-annual forum on body image and the media. We snagged a minute to speak with one of fashion’s most magnetizing — and powerful — women.

What are some of hurdles in tackling negative body-image issues? I target pro-ana and pro-mia websites, but it’s hard because they are virtually faceless. You can’t go after the servers to shut them down, and you don’t really know who is actually behind writing them. There are around 300,000 such sites, and I started an online petition to shut down these websites. We’ve already gotten 12,000 signatures! The truth is, only young people can help young people, and at Vogue we are trying to create an online platform that will open a dialogue among our readers.

Has Vogue Curvy been well-received? Extremely! People are willing to accept it and enjoy reading it — it’s not something people are resisting, which is what many of my critics thought would happen. When we did the curvy issue of Vogue in print [June 2011], there was a 40 percent increase in sales in Italy and 60 percent outside of Italy! On the other hand, the all-black issue of Vogue Italia didn’t sell in Italy. People were telling me not to do it because it was racist, but in the US and abroad it was the first-ever Vogue Italia issue to have to be reprinted!

You once ran a men's magazine, Per Lui, and now you are the editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia. On the basis of your experience, do you think men or women are more insecure about their bodies? Women. Men don’t feel the pressure, and society doesn’t expect them to be beautiful.

We always hear about eating disorders and body dysmorphia as they relate to losing weight, but what about obesity, which is also unhealthy? I hate when people say, “You should learn to accept yourself.” No way! You should never accept yourself because you can always be better! If you like yourself a little bit curvy, okay, but not because you accept it — because you like it! Not like, “I’m fat, okay, done.” You choose. You can make a choice. You can work on your body in this way. You can do gymnastics, you can make your hair long, short — you find your way to be.

What do you think of the fashion industry right now? What would you like to see change? I feel very guilty that all the girls in magazines and on the runways look the same. If there are five black models in the magazine, that’s a lot. If there are two brunettes, that’s too much. I’m also frustrated about the fact that everyone in the industry is using the same handful of models. They are all Eastern European, and they are all named Natalia. They all look alike and there is nothing exciting or individual about it. I try to stay away from the shows and designers who use these models because it’s not exciting; all the shows look the same at that point. It creates an aesthetic, a code, which alienates people and makes them feel not good enough. At the same time though, I understand why the designers do it. Having all the girls look alike is easier for the designer because they can use just one sample size. Fashion is democratic, but at some point everyone just looks the same! Also, models these days have no personality — they are scared to get sent back to their own country, so they act like robots! We must celebrate individuality!