John Bartlett was born in 1963, in Columbus, Ohio.
But the Ohio native didn't follow his passion at the Fashion Institute of Technology until years later—after graduating from Harvard with a degree in sociology in 1985 and studying economics in London.
It became quickly apparent, however, that design was the right choice for Bartlett and so he moved to New York in 1986 and studied fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology. In his spare time, he worked for various stylists. After graduating, John Bartlett spent two years at the house of Willi Smith after the designer died, and from 1990-1992 worked as design director for Ronaldus Shamask. He had an opportunity to travel to Italy to work with the finest mills and tailors.
He introduced his own bold, sexually-charged menswear line in 1992 and added his first hard-edged womenswear collection called "Butch Femme" five years later.
In 1994 he was awarded the CFDA Perry Ellis Award for New Fashion Talent, which was the first time this award had gone to a menswear designer. John won the CFDA 1997 award for Best Menswear Designer.
He became Creative Director for the Italian house of Byblos from 1997.
He also had an agreement with their sister concern Genny to produce the John Bartlett collections worldwide. His 2000 collection was shown in Florence, Italy, with a live falcon swooping over the audience (without any casualties). His fall 2001 show was in an army barracks, showing clothes with a militaristic theme.
He was considered to be a most innovative new designer.
John was not seen for two years, after closing his business due to financial problems.
Apparently, he went to Cambodia and immersed himself in Buddhism.
However in September 2004, he re-appeared during New York fashion week and gave a menswear show at his alma mater the Harvard Club. Everyone was glad to see him back. In Septmber 2005, John held his menswear show during New York Fashion Week. He has also entered into a creative partnership with Ghurka, a leather and accessories concern, where he will be designing accessories for them.
John Bartlett's clothes are intended to be sexy. He himself says so. He has a "mad housewife" dress which is a wrap-over with a full skirt, and "sleazy" tank tops that are made to be worn with wide cut trousers. He describes this look as "sweet sinister".