Witness, then take notes:
Witness, then take notes:
With Sweden firmly in his rearview mirror, MB turns to Japan for his line’s F/W 14 collection. Specifically, he is said to have been inspired by the way Japanese men dress at European trade shows: combining the best of American, Italian, and English tailoring while putting their own spin on things.
Familiar to MB observers will be the bags by Frank Clegg and slippers by Stubbs & Wootton. Meanwhile, the results of new collaborations seen in the show include jewelry from G Frost by MB and socks by Soxiety for MB.
Without further ado, a sampling of the F/W looks:
Yes, Michael Bastian is parting ways with GANT after 9 seasons and 4 pre-collections. After F/W 14, GANT by Michael Bastian will be no more.
Here is a sampling of the great farewell collection, replete with wearable MB signatures:
This interview confirms what ‘My Affair’ has always known about Michael Bastian — he has his finger right on the pulse of what men want.
STUDIO VISIT: MICHAEL BASTIAN
THE CFDA AWARD-WINNING MENSWEAR DESIGNER GIVES US A GLIMPSE INTO HIS PROCESS AND SHARES WHY CONSISTENCY IS KEY, WHAT THE SELF-PROFESSED “KING OF COLLABORATIONS” HAS UP HIS SLEEVE, AND WHY BABY ANIMALS ARE NOT JUST TOTALLY CUTE, BUT HIS GATEWAY TO MENTAL CLARITY.
How did you get your start in menswear?
Through a series of random jobs, I wound up at Ralph Lauren in creative services. And then a couple guys from Ralph (including Peter Rizzo, who became president) jumped over to Bergdorf Goodman. After about half a year, they gave me a call and asked me to be the men’s fashion director. Bergdorf, at the time, wasn’t where young, cool men shopped. So we’d have this shopping list of what we needed—simple, classic American staples done at a more luxury level, without logos everywhere. If we couldn’t find it, then we’d make it in our private label.
I met the manufacturers from doing the private label, so it was easier to jump into doing my own thing. As reckless and crazy as it sounds, I quit my job and was on a plane to Italy a couple days later. That was in October 2005.
Where do you find inspiration?
When I quit Bergdorf, I went from a 9-to-5 job to “Wow, I’m in control of my own time.” I’d wake up at my normal time, sit at my desk, and dedicate the morning to designing. But it didn’t work. I couldn’t come up with anything good. So then I would get up, walk to Washington Square Park, go to the gym, go about my day and see people, and that would get my brain working. Just being out in the world gives me ideas. I also keep notebooks. I’ll think of something that could be a germ of a collection, so I always keep a running list of possible inspirations, like The Red Balloon (an inspiration for S/S14).
But inspiration can come from anywhere. We went through a real painterly moment (Andrew Wyeth and Helen Frankenthaler have informed past collections), and now we seem to be getting into a geographic thing, a country thing. The last collection was the first time I did something that wasn’t purely American. It was about French guys and how they dress, which speaks to the idea of the world becoming a much smaller place.
Describe the Bastian guy.
He’s more introspective. What you see isn’t the whole story—there’s a lot going on inside. That’s reflected in the clothes in that we hide certain messages and details. We’ve hidden messages in internal pockets in jackets, so even the guy who owns it might not find it for years. We’ve put messages under collars, like: “This is my lucky shirt.” And “less words, more love” is one that I use a lot these days. My guy knows himself pretty well, and he’s gotten to a point in life where he can appreciate these details.
What about the men who find your price points high?
You can watch a Yankees game on TV. You can buy a ticket and have a crappy seat. Or you can buy the best ticket and be right there on the field. Everyone’s watching the same game, but having three very different experiences. It’s really about what’s important to you. A shirt’s not just a shirt. It’s the experience of what goes into that shirt.
How do you think men differ from women, in terms of shopping?
We all know girls who treat every day like Halloween—it’s beautiful and incredible—but that rarely happens in the men’s world. Men appreciate a certain consistency. The beauty of men’s shoppers is that they’re super loyal.
I think a lot of men can be intimidated by stores and the idea of clothes. I say this a lot: Men want to look like themselves, but a little bit better. If you can catch these guys, you can have them for the rest of their life. They’ll grow old with you.
How do you unwind?
Since I travel so much, I’m protective of my downtime in New York. The biggest luxury for me is lying in bed and watching really stupid animation and really bad movies. The show “Too Cute” (on Animal Planet) is incredible; it’s like Vicodin for the brain. There’s comfort in knowing what’s going to happen next, since you get that so rarely in your adult life.
Any collaborations in the works?
I love collaborations. I was never a shoe guy—I’ve always been a cordovan tassel moc (which I’m wearing now) guy—until I started working with Stubbs & Wootton. Then I suddenly understood women’s obsession with shoes, when they become more of an object. You may never even wear them, but you need to own them.
The other collaboration I’m really excited about is with Frank Clegg, for bags and leather goods. They’re a tiny artisan brand out of Fall River, Massachusetts. It was so great meeting the owner and his two sons, who run the company together, since they’re just as crazy and obsessive as I am about stitch width, leather quality, and zipper pulls. That collaboration comes out in fall 2014.
We also do hats with Eugenia Kim, and it’s one of our most successful collaborations. She’s super talented and makes the best hats.
It’s so much fun to work with these people. It’s like a tennis game. I’ll give them my inspiration, and then they come back with their ideas. You go back and forth, and get something better than when you’re working in your own bubble.
A short interview with Michael Bastian — intelligent and insightful as usual — from The Window:
Growing up in Lyons, New York, a small town upstate just off the shores of Lake Ontario, Michael Bastian lived and breathed the Americana aesthetic from an early age. Surrounded by flannel shirts, work boots and down vests, Bastian made style icons out of locals like his sixth-grade history teacher and even his father. (Eventually, he’d turn to JFK.)
Today, Bastian is leading the charge of menswear designers (as evidenced by his 2011 CFDA win) bent on reviving the homegrown fashion scene. Known for his expertly-fitted slim chinos, Bastian’s designs—for his eponymous line and for Swedish brand GANT — incorporate a sense of nostalgia made modern by a pop of print or bold color.
Your Fall 2013 collection is inspired in part by painter Andrew Wyeth. What drew you to his work?
Andrew Wyeth had always been a favorite American painter of mine. I’ve always loved how he took a quiet everyday moment and turned it into something a bit more eternal and profound. It was only when I started to dig deeper into his work that I saw the darker side of his paintings—something more reflective and lonely. Maine (where he lived and worked) is an interesting state—it’s really rugged and isolated. This was the mood we wanted to convey with our Fall ’13 collection—the darker side of New England and American menswear.
On a related note, your Fall 2013 Gant by Michael Bastian collection was inspired by another American painter, Norman Rockwell. Do you have a favorite piece by Rockwell?
I’m glad you’re asking about this because I look at my two Fall ’13 collections as basically two sides of America. Where Wyeth was more detached, dark and observant, Rockwell was more into the idea of celebrating the best of America, or at least our sentimental idea of America. He too focused on a small moment in everyday life, but whereas Wyeth’s view was personal, Rockwell’s was more about a shared common experience between all of us.
There is very little darkness in Rockwell’s work. My favorite painting has a little story behind it. When I was in high school, my family took a summer vacation to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and visited the Norman Rockwell Museum. Now it’s housed in a big Robert A. M. Stern designed neoclassical building, but at the time it was in this little house he used as his studio and you could walk from room to room like you were walking though a two-story New England house. In one room was a painting of the little boy in his pajamas discovering a Santa costume in the bottom drawer of a dresser. He was facing the viewer with this great look of shock and discovery. When I walked into that room, there were two little boys staring at the painting, and I thought ‘Oh no, this is how they’re going to find out about Santa,’ but what they were noticing was that Rockwell actually put real white hair into the paint on the Santa costume’s beard. He was that obsessed with detail. There are many Normal Rockwell paintings I love, but that one will now always be special to me.
How has menswear in this country evolved since you began designing?
In the seven years I’ve been designing, there have been a few significant shifts. The largest is the revival of respect for our own American style, which is usually a bit rougher and more authentic than the European men’s styles. This was largely driven by the new generation of menswear bloggers who really became fascinated with idea of true, heritage American sportswear, which was largely dying out in the last few decades with the closing of our mills and factories. We’ve gone from a place that makes things to a place that imports things and, in the process, we lost a bit of what was true to us and our style.
What does American luxury mean to you?
American luxury to me is buying something really well made and beautiful and then wearing the hell out of it. I don’t believe in buying something and then only saving it for special occasions—what’s the fun in that? If you own something beautiful you should be wearing it—there’s something very practical and ‘Yankee’ about that idea. Buy the best you can afford then really wear it.
Who are your style icons, past and present?
I tend to go back a lot to JFK, Jr., mainly because he represents a story which we never got to see how it played out. But when he was alive, I think he really represented the best of American men’s style, that perfect blend of casual and tailored, worn with a lot of personal style and humor. As for present icons, I don’t have so many because it’s really hard to know what is personal style and what was the result of hiring a stylist. Celebrities need to have a bit more courage with their own personal style and rely less on stylists.
What are your top 5 style tips for men?
1. Trust yourself.
2. Buy less, but buy better.
3. Always have a pink Oxford shirt ready for days when you’re feeling run down.
4. Invest in good shoes and a good watch—they elevate everything you wear them with.
5. Befriend a good tailor.
Describe your design aesthetic in four words.
Classic, luxury, American, masculine.
You call NYC home, what are your favorite spots around town?
I travel so much that when I’m in the city I tend to stick pretty close to my neighborhood, which is just north of Washington Square Park. At the moment, I’m loving the restaurant Omar and I usually eat at Piadina a couple of times a week.
(L-R: Michael Bastian, Eugenia Gonzalez Ruiz-Olloqui, Thakoon Panichgul)