An Interview with Michael Bastian

Last July, I had the opportunity to interview Michael and I asked him a series of questions that readers had sent in to me. These are his responses.

Would you say that you’re more content now than when you just started out?
The whole concept of ‘content’ is a slippery one. Since I started out, I definitely feel we’ve come a long way in getting the message out, refining the collection, understanding the customer better, etc. But as far as feeling personally content, I’m a long way off from that. Grateful- yes, content- no. But I think this natural discontent is built in to us as humans– things can always be better.

What’s next for the label but also for you personally?
Right now we are trying very hard to bring the collection to the next level, meaning fill in the gaps on our distribution, get the prices a little better, etc. And as for me personally, the division between my personal life and work life is nonexistent, but I think that’s the way it often goes with a new business that has your name on it.

What’s the best thing about having some money to play with?
I wouldn’t know the answer to this yet. We’re still in the stage where everything goes right back in the company.

Do you sometimes worry about valuing your creative life above your personal life?
As I said, there is very little division between my work and personal life these days. Does it worry me? A little, but again, I think this is natural at this stage.

What do you do to relax?
Relaxing is hard for me since I have a hard time turning my brain off. When I’m in the middle of designing a collection (particularly when I’m in Italy) I have a terrible time falling asleep, so I’ve stopped trying to fight it. I just keep a notepad by my bed and write everything down, then deal with it in the morning.

What’s your usual drink order?
My usual drink order is vodka/soda with lime– boring, I know, but it does the job. If I’m by a pool, I can’t get enough beer– my inner frat boy comes out.

What’s your worst habit?
Smoking is definitely the worst of all my bad habits. I had smoked in college, then quit for ages, but living in Italy 1/3 of the time these days where everyone smokes and makes it look so damn good has got me hooked again. But I’m just looking for the opportunity to quit again. Somehow it just isn’t as sexy in America.

Beach, or city vacation?
Beach– definitely. Or at least a beautiful sunny pool.

Do your jeans have rips or tears in them or do you prefer them to be dressier?
As for jeans, I go both ways. But if they’re aged, I go crazy when you can tell it’s fake aging. This is mainly why the first pair of destroyed jeans I did for S/S ’09 (the Lifeguard collection) were so expensive– there was literally a team of Italian grandmas in the factory sanding, patching and mending those things by hand. One was even hacking away at them with a tool meant to cut tiles! But I also love dark, skinny jeans in heavy Japanese selvedge denim– washed once in cold water and kept neat as a pin from then on.

Is there something you absolutely dread?
Yeah– my cell phone. Every time it rings my stomach drops. I hate that thing– it’s such a personal invasion. Plus I get lousy reception in New York for some reason, and I can’t stand shouting in public every time someone calls.

If I came over to your apartment on a “lazy day”, what would we do?
Well first of all, my apartment was made for lazy days– I’ve been in it for fifteen years, and at this point it’s really become my little squirrel’s nest. (It’s also been shot to death, since we don’t have an office– people who come over now say they already know every corner of this place.) One of my favorite things is inviting over a friend or two, popping open a bottle of wine, and just talking. There’s also a secret on-going game that I play with friends, but you’ve got to come over first to know about it. Let’s just say it’s going to be made into a book when it’s done.

Where do you get your sneakers/trainers?
There is this great street in New York with tons of stores that get the best obscure sneakers first– 8th Street between 6th Avenue and University. You know it’s good when you see loads of Japanese tourist kids in each store.

What do you do when you’re sad/down?
When I’m down, I usually go to the gym or call my little 5-year old identical twin nieces. They can always snap me out of a really foul mood.

What’s your favorite name for a girl? A boy?
When I used to work at Tiffany & Co. there were 3 girls working there named Amber. Now how often do you run into an Amber? Never, right? I just always thought it was such a cool old-school name, and now I associate it with chic, skinny girls wearing a lot of Elsa Peretti. As for boys, my nephew’s best friend is named Henry, and I always think– wow, that’s the perfect name for a best friend. How can you not love a guy named Henry?

What’s the last thing you purchased?
The last thing I purchased is two printed Hermes bath towels from eBay. I know this sounds splurgy, but how often do you buy new towels? My mom still has towels she was given as a wedding gift. Plus it’s great to have your luxuries be something you really use everyday.

What cologne do you use? When are you going to come out with a Bastian scent?
I’m actually obsessed with scent and perfumes. I’ve been wearing Eau Sauvage since I was 12. It’s the perfect men’s cologne, and to me, it smells like optimism and sunny days. For night, I wear this cologne I did for Bill Blass which unfortunately never saw the light of day (although someone recently told me they saw a billboard for it in South America). It was called Mr. Blass, and is amazing– very heavy and masculine with leather, patchouli, tons of carnation and this new musk the perfumers developed called Human Musk which smells incredibly real and dark and sexy– the opposite of Eau Sauvage. I’ve got 3 bottles that I guard with my life. And yes– I can’t wait to develop a scent line for MB– I’ve got 2 already formulated in my head.

If you were going to be stuck on a desert island, what three books or movies would you take with you?
Bocaccio’s ‘The Decameron’, The Collected Stories of John Cheever, and an empty journal.

If you could live within a movie, which would it be? Why?
This really obscure movie– The Lickerish Quartet by Radley Metzger. Rent it and you’ll see why. Totally strange.