At the end of October, we traveled to Los Angeles to spend time with the John Varvatos team. The occasion was Ron Thurston’s Retail in America tour, which we proudly sponsor. While we were there, we sat down with Misti Blasko, the President of John Varvatos and All Saints, and other stylists in the West Hollywood store.

Even if you’re not familiar with the John Varvatos brand, you’ve likely seen the clothing on some of entertainment’s biggest names. Music inspired the brand, and dressed rock legends like Led Zeppelin, Iggy Pop, The Who, and Alice Cooper, among others. While a passion for music has been a constant since day one, the brand has evolved since its inception in 2000. 

During our conversation, we touched on trends in the industry that are driving change and how technology plays a role in creating loyalty and improving sales.

Here are some highlights from our conversation:

Misti, you have been in retail for a long time but describe ‘falling into’ the industry. Tell me more about how you ended up here.


I actually never meant for retail to be a career. I was going to be a fourth grade teacher but like many teachers, I needed a part time job. I got one at Wet Seal, a brand that I don’t think even exists anymore. I was there for four years and 35 years later, I’ve grown up in the industry. I’ve been a part of BCBG, True Religion, Limited Brands, and then AllSaints Group, where I have been for the last eight years. During my retail journey, I’ve been a stylist, a manager, a regional director, and now a president of two companies, John Varvatos and AllSaints. It’s amazing how much you can learn in retail. In my case, I learned everything from stores, to real estate, to finance, to management.

What kind of experience do you want your customers to have in the store?


The best part about John Varvatos is our loyal customers. We have customers that shop with us exclusively. Because we have so little employee churn, when customers come in, they go right to the same person that helped them last time. Paul and Pam are the two top stylists in this location and both have been here for about two decades. During the pandemic, it became clear how important our stylist-customer relationships are. Even with the stores closed, our stylists stayed in touch with their individual customers. They talked about recipes, their pets, their families… It wasn’t just about sales and seeing if they needed anything from the store. Rather, it was about truly building relationships and connections. That trust and that relationship were things that not a lot of brands can do authentically. We have built many long-term careers here, which not only benefit our employees, but also our customers.

In-Store Stylist:

We do a really great job in this location of providing very personalized service. We don’t call ourselves sales professionals. Rather, we’re all Stylists. Our job is to engage with customers, listen to their needs and help them find the best products from our current assortment. Most people that come into this store spend a good 45 minutes to an hour, sometimes more, with us. It’s an unusually intimate experience for them, which is what we aspire to. We are successful in-store because we have an incredible, long-serving team and also because we have the digital tools we need from KWI to manage the relationships. We document how we help our individual customers on the floor, entering data into their profile, to ensure we can continue to nurture those relationships in the future.

How does KWI help you drive better relationships with your customers?


We no longer talk about retail as just the store environment. Now, it’s really direct-to-consumer. If customers want to shop online, we want to be ready for them there. If they want to shop in the store, we want to be ready for them there. KWI’s unified commerce solution helps us meet our customers where they are. In addition, the mobility that KWI provides for our store teams really improves the shopping experience for our customers by giving employees the tools they need, right in their palms.

For example, customers don’t have to come all the way back to the till with a salesperson to be rung up or to see if stock is available. Now, we can sit down on the couch and do it more casually. It’s a much friendlier process.

It’s also very easy to look up a past purchase history. With a little bit of information, we can easily look up a customer and see all their purchases, itemized by transaction. On the customer profile page, we can see lifetime spend, which is very helpful. We create lists of top customers by week and month and we focus on driving these relationships forward. 

What’s the one trend in retail that you’re most excited about? 


I’m excited about exploring how we evolve while still maintaining a one-to-one relationship with our customers, whether they’re shopping digitally, in our stores, or at Nordstrom or Bloomingdales. I know our store teams would love customers to shop exclusively with them, but everyone is starting to think about the bigger picture and meeting our customers where they are, which is great. 

A great example of how our Stylists play a role in creating an omnichannel experience is the ‘fulfill it’ feature in KWI. If we don’t have a particular item in the store, Stylists can do a search and see if it’s available somewhere else. Then, we can ship it to the customer from another store or from the warehouse. It’s super helpful and a great customer experience. 

I’m also excited about the creative team that we have today at John Varvatos. We don’t have one sole creative that makes all the decisions for the business, like other brands. We have six incredibly talented, creative members on our team. These individuals are experts in knits, leather, sports jackets, etc. They bring something very special to this brand and I can’t wait for everyone to see what’s to come because we continue to get better and better while staying true to our artists and roots. 

But there’s this evolution that we’re continuing to go after. We have had one persona that we’ve protected for a very long time. It’s now time to expand from the father to also include his son. The evolution of our creatives will help us get to that future. 

To learn more about how John Varvatos leverages KWI, please reach out to schedule a demo.