Designer John Varvatos Remembers His Friend and One-Time Model Chris Cornell: 'He Wasn't An In-Your-Face Person'

J.Sciulli/WireImage for John Varvatos
John Varvatos, Chris Cornell and daughter Toni Cornell attend the The John Varvatos 4th Annual Stuart House Charity Benefit on March 19, 2006.  

"Gutted" is the word I’ve been using. Chris had been one of my music icons since the early '90s, and when I reached out to him in 2005 about being in one of my campaigns, we hit it off. We didn’t talk about fashion the day he came to New York to shoot the campaign; we talked about life and growing up. We talked about him being on his own since he was about 15 years old, our passion for music. He told me the story of how he met his wife, Vicky, and how she got him on track and changed his life; Chris loved his family more than anything. Over time, we became friends. On stage he was the god of rock, but that was really just one side of him. Chris was sweet and charming and thoughtful -- and really introspective at the same time. He wasn’t an in-your-face person. When he talked to you, it was always about you. It was always "Let’s talk about you. I haven’t seen you for a while, what’s going on with you?"

I was just watching videos of him from when he performed at a benefit in 2006 for The Stuart House, a sexual abuse foundation in West Hollywood that we work with annually. He didn’t just do Soundgarden songs, he covered other people's songs -- often by Bob Marley and the Eagles -- and he put thought into the selection, thought into what the people would connect with. Chris was a giving guy. The talent was enormous, and when you mix that with who he was as a person... the world has a great loss. There was so much more to give.

As told to Brooke Mazurek.