Michael Bastian Lowers Prices But Turns Up Heat

From this New York Times post:

At some point during the last five years, it occurred to Michael Bastian that $540 was a lot to charge for a pair of khaki cut-off shorts, even if some men were willing to pay.

Mr. Bastian, a former fashion director for Bergdorf Goodman who was named the best men’s wear designer by the Council of Fashion Designers of America at its awards night last week, aspires to make clothes that are perfect: the perfect cut, color, fabric and fit as applied to classic elements of American sportswear like khakis, corduroys and sweaters. The high prices ($425 for a dress shirt, $550 for pants) reflect the labor and the materials that go into the designs, which, to an untrained eye, might not seem all that special. From the time he started his line, Mr. Bastian has said, “You buy less, but you buy better.”

But the reality is that few men can afford, or desire, to shop that way, and to sustain a designer business, you need more customers. In a case of odd timing, Mr. Bastian won the men’s wear award after a season in which he had put his collection on hiatus to reorganize his company and address his prices.

“They were just a little too high,” Mr. Bastian said. “You don’t have the opportunity to explain to every customer what goes into the design.”

Working on a separate collection for Gant for three seasons enabled Mr. Bastian to buy out the interest of his former partner, Brunello Cucinelli, and seek other Italian factories to produce his clothes, with the objective of lowering the prices by 10 to 20 percent. He plans to introduce the new spring collection in Milan this month.

But there is still a question of what is the right price for designer pants.

“It’s very hard to say,” said Eric Jennings, the men’s fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue. “What he’s doing now in addressing the price will only help his business. It was only accessible to the highest tier of customers in the past.”

That might not be so easy, with the rising cost of cotton and cashmere fabrics. Mr. Bastian said he would cut his own profit margin to make the lower prices work.

“I’ve got to stand by my word,” he said. “This was all for a reason: to get this business off the ground in a real way.”

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