Vartest Laboratories

“We started small and it's really satisfying that we now have PhDs, engineers, and a full staff with specialized skills. We have so much tribal knowledge to provide our clients.”

Adam VarleyOwner

Adam has been working in the textile industry since the 70s.

“You wouldn’t believe NYC in the late 70s. Nothing was going to get me out of Manhattan. I had to figure out a way to stay here.”, he says with a smile. His first step was securing a job. Looking to help, his father, Gerald, brought him to the Fashion Institute of Technology where Adam found a job listing on a bulletin board. This $3.25 per hour job, as lab assistant at a textile company, would ultimately change both his and Gerald’s life. Adam shares, “We were testing sample fabrics on Madison Ave., but then everything started going offshore. They closed the lab, I was on unemployment, and I figured this textile stuff is for the birds.”

close up of textile fibers
girl testing fabric fibers on a computer

Seeing a future in tech, Adam started studying computer science at NYU.

Seeing a future in tech, Adam started studying computer science at NYU. After some friends complained to Gerald about their textile testing partner, he and Adam realized there was an industry gap that needed to be filled. It’s now 1980 and Adam has access to an Apple computer. He created a pricing sheet on his school’s computer, printed some copies, “and that was it” Adam says.

Adam and Gerald started offering same-day services, and one of their first clients was a tuxedo manufacturer in Midtown. Clients shared test results with others in the industry, and word quickly spread. The longest-lasting fight between Adam and Gerald was over which one of them had actually secured Ralph Lauren as a customer. After that contract was signed, Vartest moved from a coop space to their current building on 36th Street. At that time, Adam and Gerald who previously shared a studio also moved into a lavish one-bedroom apartment.

“Growing was nuts, but it was so much fun. We just kept working and growing.”

While the company was experiencing tremendous growth in its niche, the world was changing. Children were getting sick from lead poisoning and toxins in their clothes and accessories. Congress eventually passed the Children’s Safety Improvement Act, forcing importers to understand their supply chain and materials. Vartest was the first lab, worldwide, to be approved for this testing. As Adam recalls: “Rather than a bag of material or a single piece to test, people were driving to our building with pallets.” Since then, Vartest has entered several new markets, including medical and Personal Protective Equipment, litigation, repellents and finishes, and aerospace – just to name a few. The company’s equipment and knowledge is transferrable to nearly any testing application. Adam’s testing facility has expanded to 7,000 square feet, and there are no plans to slow down.

equipment in use testing fibers

Q&A with Adam Varley

Best compliment received from a client?

About 12 years ago, we provided a report to a local client who used our results to secure a $2.3 million dollar charge back from its supplier. We hadn’t spoken in many years, but he recently reached out to tell me that he still has that report in his office.

What work have you most enjoyed?

The team includes such a diverse set of skills and credentials. I find it so satisfying when a project comes in and the whole team has input from different tests and perspectives, and results come together in one report that really helps the client.

What’s your advice to someone starting out in this business?

Be the best you can at doing good things - like testing to control your supply chain.

Favorite place to have lunch in Midtown?

It's a triple tie between Tonchin, Keens, and Han Bat.