John Wood, a multitalented nightlife veteran and fashion entrepreneur, has ascended to impressive heights within both industries. The Wyoming native moved to Las Vegas in 1998 to study marketing at UNLV, got his feet in nightclub and retail doors, and has continued climbing ever since.
Ironically, his first taste of nightlife began in the realm of fashion. While still a student, Wood started working at Armani Exchange, where he grew from sales to store management. At 20 years old he started coordinating Armani Exchange fashion shows at Baby’s and later Rain. By arriving early to set up the underage Wood experienced Las Vegas nightlife in its infancy, before those now-departed venues as well as Light in Bellagio sparked a shift toward nightclubs as premier entertainment attractions. “They elevated table service and made it a privilege to get behind the velvet rope,” he says.
In 2002, he joined the team at Ra nightclub as a promoter, and spent those early days camped out around Luxor, Mandalay Bay and Excalibur, handing out $5 club passes and later selling $175 bottles.
Three years later, when Steve Wynn was opening his eponymous hotel and La Bête nightclub (now Tryst), Wood became the first VIP host, and has since risen to become the senior executive director of VIP services for Tryst, XS and Botero.
But in 2006 Wood circled back to his fashionable beginnings when he met a former Brand Jordan executive and founded a premium performance-apparel brand called RYU (Respect Your Universe). The idea was to make elite custom shorts for athletes and fans trained in martial arts, so they brought in the guy who made Mike Tyson’s shorts. A year or so after launch, five more former Nike employees got on board, including the former CFO of Nike Golf, to help expand the brand. The team raised $13 million from friends, family and partners. RYU went public with an IPO and opened a RYU store in the Shoppes at the Palazzo.
Today, RYU is sort of the Lululemon of MMA, and continues to introduce technology, fabric, style and fit into the clothing market. The brand has partnered with a gym to form the House of RYU, a 15,000-square-foot athletic center on Hacienda and Valley View boulevards. The training facility includes Spartan- and Tuff Mudder-style activities, boot camps, sprint training, tire flips and, of course, muay thai, judo and other martial-arts classes.
Of nightlife fashion, Wood observes that everyone in the club is still wearing skinny jeans, and that tattoos have become increasingly mainstream, particularly among women. But the most common faux pas are people showing up too casual or trying too hard and then looking uncomfortable.
So, who’s the best-dressed guy in the company? “Ronn [Nicoli, XS’ strategic marketing director], hands down,” Wood says. “That guy could wear a garbage bag and look good.”