Fashion Designer John Varvatos attends the opening of his new Toronto store and the launch of John Varvatos


Rock sensibility lies behind John Varvatos’s work: Beker

John Varvatos’s passion for music has driven him from the get-go — a constant inspiration since his early days growing up in Detroit.

John Varvatos is a Greek American men’s sportswear designer who cut his teeth at Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. These “chukkas” in trendy oxblood suede with tire treads, are from his pre-fall Star USA collection, the lower priced line, landing at $225 at Harry Rosen. Snag now to wear late summer with denim, chino or corduroy.

Fashion Designer John Varvatos attends the opening of his new Toronto store and the launch of John Varvatos: Rock in Fashion book at the Yorkdale store.

George Pimentel / GETTY IMAGES

Fashion Designer John Varvatos attends the opening of his new Toronto store and the launch of John Varvatos: Rock in Fashion book at the Yorkdale store.

If ever there was a brilliant study in the role attitude plays in style, “Rock in Fashion,” the hip new coffee table book by designer John Varvatos, is it.

Based on a spectacular collection of photographs from rock’s golden age, with an emphasis on the ’70s, this meaty array of imagery is a celebration of the kind of cool many of us aspired to in our youth — still aspire to, perhaps — at a time when music was fresh and raw and not digitally downloadable.

As one of the most successful and arguably best menswear designers in America, John Varvatos’s passion for music has driven him from the get-go — a constant inspiration since his early days growing up in Detroit.

And though he pursued a career in fashion, first with Ralph Lauren, and then with Calvin Klein, launching his own label in 2000, Varvatos’s rock sensibility not only spills over into his edgy designs, but informs his chic style emporiums.

The best examples are his New York Bowery boutique, home of the former legendary CBGB’s club, and now his newest store, at Yorkdale. This is his first shop outside the U.S., and Varvatos says he chose Toronto because it feels more international than any other North American city, next to New York. He’s also always had a penchant for the music scene here, and even dated a Torontonian for three years in his college days.

John Varvatos paid a visit to Toronto recently, and I caught up with him at his new Yorkdale store to talk about music, shopping, and how to achieve rock star style.

What was the first band you fell in love with?

Probably the Rolling Stones. Only because I saw them on the Ed Sullivan show. I was 7 or 8, and my sister was a year older, and she liked The Beatles. I liked them, but they didn’t connect with me as much. When I look back, I think it was because The Stones seemed a little more rough around the edges, a little more bad boy. Something about the music connected with me. It wasn’t as sweet. And then I heard The Kinks on the radio with “You Really Got Me” and I’d never heard anything like that electric guitar. It kind of put a lightning bolt through me. And then it was The Who, with “I Can See For Miles.”

What about the role of image in all this? That’s something that really did escalate with the advent of music television. How did you first become aware of rock imagery?

Our first source for that imagery was magazines. That’s all we had back then. There was a music magazine out of Detroit called Creem, and from the time I was 12 I was addicted to it. Every month when it came out I’d sit on the floor of this record store, Sam’s Jams, and I would study every page, always asking Sam to tell me about the various musicians. And then I’d follow the British magazines, like New Musical Express, and those images were my insights into who these musicians were. Those photographers were capturing something in the moment, something intriguing. Later it moved on to music television, where it became alive. It was the first time that you could really see something move. And those images were on my bedroom walls. Those musicians were my icons: I wanted to look like them, to be them.

Yeah, didn’t we all! But in terms of you wanting to be a designer… You didn’t know at the time that you’d one day want to be dressing these rock stars!

No… I started working in a men’s store when I was about 15 years old. I did that so I could get a discount and buy clothes! My parents had no money, and I did know that a few of things I did get, that had a little edge to them, really did work with the girls, for sure. I’d get a great reaction! And I was a shy kid. So I thought, “Well, if that works … then I need more of that!” ’Cause attention was not going to come because my personality was so outgoing! So I became one of the coolest dressed kids at school ’cause I spent every penny I earned on the clothes. Other than working at men’s stores, I never really thought about getting into fashion. But then I got a job at Ralph Lauren in sales, and when I came to NY and started spending time in the design studio, because I was involved with the merchandising, and started to see how the product was coming together … Well the lightbulb really went off. I was 29 years old, and I finally realized what it was that I wanted to do.

When you look at the eclecticism of style that rock stars had, it’s amazing. But was there one particular iconic rock star that made you think, “Wow…This guy really has it down!”?

Growing up in Detroit, there was a band called The Stooges with Iggy Pop. And they continue to be one of my favourite bands of all time. In those days, they were so against the grain of everything else. But stylistically, both musically and in terms of their persona, they were so different. Then the other one that blew my mind from the minute I saw him was Jimi Hendrix. It was like he kind of came from another planet. He wasn’t wearing a spacesuit but he had this look about him that scared everyone in the music industry… Not that he was scary-looking. But people were afraid that he was taking the baton and he was going to own it. Suddenly, everybody wanted to look like him and be like him and be around him.

Let’s talk about the importance of attitude versus the importance of the actual clothes themselves. What truly does give someone great style?

It’s how people carry things. My first great style icon was Steve McQueen. He wasn’t a fashionista by any stretch. But it was the way he’d wear a suit, or a pair of jeans and a white T-shirt. There was something about the fit… But it’s the way you carry it, the way you walk into a room with it.

You really have taken the retail experience to a whole other level. What’s your philosophy about the fun inherent in shopping?

Everybody was talking about shopping “experiences” for years, but I never thought most of these new stores I was seeing were much of an experience. They were just about buying the clothes. But things changed when we took over the old CBGB’s club in The Bowery and turned that into a store. I started thinking that it had to be cultural, to give you an experience that just made you feel you wanted to be there, no matter where in the world you were coming from. And it wouldn’t bother me if people left the store without a bag. If they went back and talked about the space and really enjoyed it, then I knew I did my job. At The Bowery store in New York, we do live shows, which we’re hoping to do here at Yorkdale as well. We do the shows once a month and don’t charge for them: everyone from stadium artists to young up-and-comers. It’s that cultural experience of turning people on to new things and things that you’re bringing from the past to the forefront as well.

It’s kind of like the way we used to hang out at record stores as kids.


If you had to give advice to aspiring groovy guys out there who want to emulate that rock star vibe, what would you suggest?

First thing, it’s not about how much you spend, it’s about great fit. Whether you spend $500 on a suit or $5000, it’s just got to fit you great — no matter what size you are. If you start with that premise, then it’s finding things that you feel comfortable in. And I’m not talking about whether it’s loose or soft… It’s about when you look in the mirror, if you feel sexy or strong or powerful. That’s really what it’s about. Because if you look in the mirror and say, “That’s not me!” you have to figure out if it’s “not you” because it’s new to you or just because it doesn’t suit your personality. Because the first thing that you want to create is your own style. My key word is individuality. Be yourself. Don’t try to be a mirror of somebody else.

Interview with Bill Pantazis as Gotta ‘B’ George Michael


30 Years of Music with George Michael

Gotta “B” George Michael Photo: Michael Cairns (George Michael Video: – promo video link of Bill as George at bottom of article)

Bill Pantazis as Gotta "B" George Michael

Bill Pantazis as Gotta “B” George Michael, Photo: Michael Cairns

On Dec. 2, 2013, was privileged to interview a tribute artist to legend pop star George Michael. The celebrity tribute artist is Bill Pantazis, aka Gotta “B” George Michael.

Pantazis hails from Vancouver, B.C., but he travels anywhere and everywhere paying tribute to the mega pop singer.George Michael’s career, with bands, started in 1979. His solo career began in 1987, but according to Pantazis it wasn’t until 2007 that he, himself, began paying tribute to George Michael. Turns out, too, they have a lot in common!

“George and I have many similarities. One includes our Greek heritage linking us both to Cypress. We also have a similar build and eye color (hazel), and we’re both born in June with the same zodiac sign!”

It all began when Pantazis entered a lookalike contest, and even though he did not win, it opened opportunities. One of those opps included doing a TV commercial.

“After the contest and commerical, I went on to become a professional celebrity impersonator.”

From then on Pantazis began paying tribute to Michael at weddings, birthday parties, fund raisers and more. This fab singer finds time to “be”- Gotta “B” George Michael, plus work a full time job.

In addition, this George Michael tribute artist began mingling with other celebrity tribute artists and attending lookalike conventions. That, however, did not begin until a couple of years ago.

“I started going to conventions in 2011. I attended my first, the CIC (Celebrity Impersonators Convention), and The Reel Awards in Las Vegas. Later, and most recently, I attended one in Orlando, Fla. called the Sunburst Convention. I not only get to perform at them but I make wonderful contacts, network, attend seminars, get professional photos, meet agents, producers…!”

When asked about any future gigs on the horizon, Pantazis told us that later this month he will be singing part of the song “Do They Know It’s Christmas Time?” by Band Aid. That event will be a talent show at a TV station in Vancouver.

Thank you Bill Pantazis for sharing about this part of your life, a professional tribute artist. Fans look forward to more about Gotta “B” George Michael!

Enjoy video of Pantazis as Michael at Gotta “B” George Promo, and enjoy George Michael video “30 Year Anniversary” above under Gotta “B” George Michael photo image. Also enjoy a selection of photos of Bill as George in slideshow.

Ironman MP John Pandazopoulos announces he won’t recontest the seat of Dandenong

Source: Dandenong Leader

John Pandazopoulos won't recontest the seat of Dandenong at the next state ...

John Pandazopoulos won’t recontest the seat of Dandenong at the next state election. Source: News Limited

STATE Labor MP for Dandenong John Pandazopoulos has announced he won’t be standing at the next State Election

Mr Pandazopoulus said he was retiring from 22 years in State Parliament and 26 years in public life, including his time as a councillor and Mayor of the then City of Berwick.

‘Panda’, as he is affectionately known, said it was an honour and privilege to have served the people of Dandenong and surrounding suburbs.

“It’s mostly an area of working people and migrants who are working hard to make a living for themselves and their families, a story similar to that of my parents,” Mr Pandazopoulos said.

“These people rely on us Labor people to look after them, advocate for them, defend their rights and interests and, when in government, deliver for them.”

Mr Pandazopoulos said he was proud of his achievements in office, including the transformation of the Dandenong CBD, EastLink, the Dandenong Bypass, and enshrining multiculturalism in the Multicultural Victoria Act and the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act.

“All of these were achieved through the shear hard work of the many people that I have worked with who shared the vision,” he said.

“I, of course, remain in Parliament until the next election, serving the people of Dandenong and continuing my work on Parliament’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee.”

Mr. Pandazopoulos has served in the Parliament of Victoria for 22 years and he will not be running again in the November 2012 election. He is the longest standing Greek politician to hold a seat in Australian parliament. He was elected to the City of Berwick Council in 1987, and was Mayor of Berwick from 1990-1991. He is also the chairman in the World Hellenic Inter-Parliamentary Association (WHIΡA).

In the meantime, the former Mayor of Monash, Stephen Dimopoulos, announced that he will fight for the nomination of candidate for the Labor Party for the government seat of Oakley.

The Greek Lambros Tapinos, the current Mayor of Moreland announced that he will fight for the seat of Pasko Veil with the Labor Party.

Nick Xenophon calls for Senate Inquiry into GM crop farming


Senator Nick Xenaphon Senator Nick Xenaphon

CONCERNS over genetically-modified crops are again hitting the headlines as Independent senator Nick Xenophon calls for a Senate Inquiry into GM crop farming and what it can costs their non-GM farming neighbours.

Mr Xenophon is inspired by a case due to his the West Australian Supreme Court next year in which a farmer lost his organic certification after a neighbour’s GM crop spread on to his property.

The organic markets he profited from were now closed to him and he claims 70% of his property was affected.

The inquiry, Mr Xenophon said, needs to review the regulations around GM farming so those unwillingly affected can seek compensation without having to fight an expensive court battle.

“Certainly if someone has to pursue their right through a multi-million dollar court case, it is beyond the means for almost any farmer in Australia,” Mr Xenophon said.

The Senator expects to launch the inquiry once the WA case wraps up.

Turkey refuses to allow Greek Orthodox school unless Athens opens mosque

Source: themuslimissue

Now really? And we want 5,000 churches in the Middle East. Meanwhile Turkey wants to convert their churches into mosques and are even converting the old Greek Orthodox church Haga Sofia into a mosque – which was left as a Museum after AtaTurk abolished Islam from the country.

No Greek Orthodox school until Athens opens mosque, says Turkish deputy FM

No Greek Orthodox school until Athens opens mosque, says Turkish deputy FM

Turkey’s deputy foreign minister has said that Turkey is halting the reopening of a Greek Orthodox school in Istanbul until Greece opens a mosque in Athens.

Turkey’s Deputy Foreign Minister Metin Kulunk has refused to resume the Greek Orthodox Halki Seminary until Greece reopens the Fethiye Mosque in Athens.

“Have no doubt, Turkey has not taken a step to re-open Halki Seminary and it will not take a step until Greece, who did not hold up the promise it gave in Lausanne, opens the Fethiye Mosque in Athens,” Kulunk said in a Western Thrace Turks Solidarity Association meeting in Germany.

Turkey has been demanding the re-opening of the Fethiye Mosque in Athens, the only European capital city without an official mosque, in return for moves to reopen a Greek Orthodox school in Istanbul’s Heybeliada Island, which was closed in 1971.

Calling Greece “a church state,” he questioned why a mosque was not being given permission to exist in Athens while many mosques, churches and synagogues stand side by side in Istanbul.

In October, Turkey’s EU minister Egemen Bagis said that Turkey would be encouraged to reopen the Halki Seminary in Heybeliada if Greece took steps to open a mosque in Athens.

Greece is home to many Muslim communities, both native and migrant, but refuses to grant permission for the construction of new mosques.

The 150,000 strong Turkish Muslim community of the Western Thrace province near the Turkish border have complained that they are being refused to build new mosques as well as rebuild old mosques from the Ottoman era.

They are also refused the right to elect their own religious representation to the Greek government.

Greek commerce has lost 176,000 jobs

Source: Ekathimerini

ESEE survey shows that employment in the sector has undergone a major drop when compared with 2008

Employment in Greek commerce has gone back 16 years, to 1997 levels, as more than 175,000 jobs have been lost since 2008, according to an annual review of the sector by the National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE) issued on Monday.

The price has been heavy not only for salaried workers, but also for employers and the self-employed, who represent about half of those to have lost their jobs lost in commerce over the last five years.

This has resulted from the closure of no fewer than 130,000 enterprises, against the opening of just 45,000 enterprises between 2009 and 2013.

It appears the future will be particularly difficult, as economic analysts agree that it will take at least 20 years for the losses in employment to be recovered, provided that the economy shows a rebound rate of 3.5 percent per annum in the years to come.

The ESEE report showed that employment in the sector declined for a fifth consecutive year to remain below the 700,000-job level for the second year in a row.

The latest data show there are 656,156 workers in the sector, while this year alone 23,194 jobs have been lost in commerce.

The trade sector has lost 176,400 jobs since 2008, with the biggest share of that (47 percent) being employers and the self-employed.

As the director of the Small Businesses Institute of the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen & Merchants (GSEVEE), Dionysis Gravaris, said, according to a confederation survey, some 30 percent of the homeless in Athens are former merchants or self-employed.

“We’ll need 20 years to recoup our losses as the first couple of years of the rebound will not come with an increase in employment,” commented Panteion University professor Apostolos Dedousopoulos.

Meanwhile the number of overtime hours has grown by 8.5 percent since 2008, while unpaid overtime work has expanded by 76.4 percent.

At the same time the share of part-time work has almost doubled, rising from 4.5 percent five years ago to 8.2 percent this year, according to the ESEE survey.

The prospect of shutting down for commercial enterprises in the coming year is significant, according to the ESEE research, but not as high as last year, as one in 10 companies in the sector feel there is a high risk or a certainty of closure.

Watch As Luxury Passenger Ship Burns In Greek Shipyard


If the unfortunate, yet hilarious, sinking of the Costa Concordia cruise liner in January 2012 off the Tuscan coast was the best symbol of the foundering Eurozone, then we are unsure just what the symbolic value is of the fire that raged over the weekend on the Majestic International’s Ocean Countess cruise ship while laid up at a shipyard in Greece.

As Gcaptain reported, the Ocean Countess caught fire Saturday at the Chalkis Shipyard near Chalkis (or Khalkis), Greece, north of Athens.

All five crewmembers were evacuated safely, but as of Sunday firefighting crews were still trying to contain the blaze, reports say.

The Ocean Countess was launched as the Cunard Countess in 1976 and has been laid up at the shipyard for over a year since its last charter to UK-based Cruise & Maritime Voyages ended.

Supposedly, the vessel was scheduled to re-enter service next year. It won’t.

Unlike the Costa Concordia, this tale has a somewhat happy ending:  Vernicos Salvage and Tug reports that the fire onboard the Ocean Countess has been brought under control through firefighting efforts by the crew of their Alexander 3 tug.