In October of last year, a store quietly opened in New York’s SoHo neighborhood for a brand called OTD, or On This Day.
Although he wasn’t featured in any marketing and there was no public announcement, it wasn’t long before word got out that OTD is the new brand set up by iconic designer John Varvatos a year after he left his namesake brand.
Varvatos left his brand in 2020 after the company declared bankruptcy and was sold off to investor Lion Capital.
Now, four months after OTD soft-launched, Varvatos said he’s finally ready to start talking about how it differs from his work at his previous brand. The differences aren’t just aesthetic, although OTD has a younger target demo and a more pop-culture-focused look compared to the rock and roll of John Varvatos. Think clothes inspired by Dua Lipa, rather than Green Day. On the business side, the makeup of the OTD team is different than John Varvatos, too.
“Because we are doing men’s, women’s and unisex, instead of just men’s, there are a lot more shared responsibilities across the team,” Varvatos said. “It’s a lot of jack-of-all-trades designers working together on several different [product] categories. Aside from a few interns, there aren’t a lot of junior people on the team. We opted for a smaller but more experienced team, and that’s helped us get off to a good start.”
OTD’s team members include John Varvatos veterans like design director Olexa Casanova and digital creative director Kim Morrell.
Indeed, launching a brand in step with a physical store is a feat that most aren’t capable of doing. The standard procedure for a new brand is now starting with online sales first, building an audience and then opening stores when revenue can support it. But Varvatos said that physical retail was a core part of the company’s growth plan from the beginning. Just four months in, a second 4,000 square-foot flagship store is being built in Los Angeles. While that’s under construction, the brand is hosting a pop-up right next door.
OTD’s website launched at the same time its store opened. Sales are direct-only, online and in-store, for now. But that may change in the future, Varvatos said.
“For the next three years, the biggest and fastest growth channel for us will be physical retail,” Varvatos said. “We’re looking to open 2-4 stores in the U.S. this year and, hopefully, one in London next year. A lot of good real estate has opened up in the U.S. this year. Obviously online is important, but we’re very bullish on physical retail.”
Comparing the current climate to when he launched John Varvatos in 2000, Varvatos said brands need to go about launching in a completely different way. There’s so much noise out there and so many brands fighting for attention, it pays for brands to be hyper-focused in their marketing, he said.
For example, outside of stores, OTD’s marketing will mostly focus on paid social – the first campaigns are set to hit Instagram next month. They’re focused on markets like New York and Los Angeles, where OTD’s target customer is.
“You can’t afford to try and just blanket the market with your brand,” Varvatos said. “It’s one thing when you have an established brand, but being localized and specific is the better move for a startup, which is what we are, essentially.”
And though John Varvatos is a recognizable name, he said he isn’t going to be using his name or image in the marketing. He’d rather OTD’s reputation be built on the strength of its product — priced around 20% less than John Varvatos, from $85 -$975 — not the pedigree of its president.
“I have no interest in being the face of this brand,” he said.