In Opening AEF Keynote, John Varvatos CIO Dishes on Howard Stern's Custom Wardrobe

10/1/2013

Did you know that radio personality Howard Stern, at 6'8", has a custom wardrobe of 130 pieces made for him four times a year by John Varvatos? That's 130 one-offs, four times per year from the factory, and that's for a single customer.

That's just one of the intriguing facts to come out of Apparel's Executive Forum, which kicked off yesterday at the Four Seasons in Dallas with a keynote presentation from John Varvatos CIO Lee Goldenberg, who revealed how the brand shares its DNA with rock'n'roll from the lifestyle experience for its customers as well as its employees.

Here are a few other tidbits from the opening presentation:
  • The super high-end men's lifestyle brand which just this past Saturday did $100,000 in business in its SoHo store alone serves the type of customer who spends $15,000 at a clip, and everything in the store, and behind the scenes, is set up to serve this type of big spender.
  • From its most recent advertising, partnering aging rock icons with young musicians, to its IT philosophy, John Varvatos is all about the 360-degree rock star experience. Like rock stars who get brown M&Ms and pink sheets and Stoli in the fridge on demand   the IT team gets whatever it wants, but has to perform.
  • Because it was acquired from VF Corp. by Lion Capital, John Varvatos had the very rare opportunity to start from scratch with all IT systems. Everything, absolutely everything, is in the cloud. When Hurricane Sandy knocked out the power at corporate HQ for five days, there was no break for the staff. Everyone who had an internet connection from anywhere could log on and perform every single task from wherever they were.
  • In the four months starting in November 2012, John Varvatos migrated to new ERP, retail, network, POS, CRM, back office and warehousing systems with a team of just four people, and a lot of help from its vendors.
  • Super cool: the company has an expense reporting system that allows you to take a picture of your receipt on your iPhone wherever you are (say, getting out a taxi), tap in the relevant info, and send automatically to your expense report. No paper, ever, and everything can be automatically routed for approval review, rejection.
  • Its Bowery store occupies the location of the former famed CBGB club. Graffiti from its run as a music venue is still on the brick wall, and once a month, all clothing, all fixtures, absolutely everything is removed from the store to make room for a stage and lights for a rock performance. Recently, guitar hero Gary Clark Jr. performed at that location.
Stay tuned for more on John Varvatos and the other speakers at Apparel's Executive Forum.

Jordan K. Speer is editor in chief of Apparel.
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