Michael Bastian: Re-Interpreter of American Classics

From Men’s Health:

The American classics needed updating. A tweak in fabrication here, a slim fit there. It was the early part of the last decade, and Michael Bastian — the then men’s fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman — saw a gap in the market for the kinds of clothes he and his friends (and as it later turned out, thousands of men around the country) liked to wear: preppy but rugged; modern but sophisticated, luxe but lived-in. So he made lists of clothing he couldn’t find in the store or at fashion shows and many of them turned up under Bergdorf’s private label. By 2006, he had branched off, filling men’s wardrobes with slim-fit cashmere sweaters, oxford button downs, and perfectly tapered, flat-front chinos under his own label. Fall 2010 marked his first collaboration with the classic sportswear brand Gant, offering guys another opportunity to enjoy his precise fit and special details.

After taking a season off to reconfigure the business end of his eponymous label, Bastian made a strong showing with his Spring 2012 collection at New York Fashion Week (where he also held his GANT by Michael Bastian presentation). It was obvious the time off and a Council of Fashion Designers Award (the Oscars of fashion) win for Menswear Designer of the Year in June didn’t alter his contemporary-prep DNA in a show inspired by James Dean.

From where do you draw your inspiration?
Mostly from walking around the streets of New York. But if I ever need an extra shot of inspiration, I go to the Strand Bookstore. I’ve stumbled upon some pretty random and interesting ideas there in the piles of used books.

What are the three most-played songs on your iPod? (No cheating!)
“Black and Gold” by Sam Sparro, “Boa Sorte” by Vanessa da Mata (featuring Ben Harper), and “Sara Smile” by Hall and Oates. The first two make sense: “Black and Gold” was featured in our last show, and “Boa Sorte” was almost played in our Summer ‘10 show. The last one is my nostalgic chill-out song, and while it’s a little embarrassing, it really is much better than people give it credit for.

Who is your style icon?
JFK Jr. A lot of designers focus on his father, but he really was the best example of cool, classic, un-studied American guy dressing.

What’s your signature scent?
I’m a little obsessive about scent, so here are three.

1. Everyday Scent: Eau Sauvage by Christian Dior. I’ve been wearing this since I was 12 and it’s still the best. Clean, lemony, optimistic.

2. Special Event Scent: Sycamore by Chanel. This one’s hard to find (only available in Chanel stores) and expensive, but it’s just about the most sophisticated cologne I’ve ever worn. It makes you feel more suave and worldly than you probably are, and the bottle has a cool magnetic cap.

3. Cheap but Great Scent: Jovan Sex Appeal for Men. I’m not kidding. This one was given to me as a joke, but the joke ended up being on them—it’s actually really good! Warm, spicy, kind of sweet like Coca Cola, and about $10 a bottle. And girls really do dig it. There must be a reason it’s stuck around for the last 35 years.

How do you stay so fit?
I’ve been traveling a lot the past couple of years, and while it’s tough sticking to my gym routine on the road, I’ve found that 30 push ups and 30 sit ups a day before taking a shower can keep my shit pulled together pretty well, until I get back to my regular routine. I also walk quite a bit.

What’s your most surprising skill?
I know how to cane chairs — how’s that for a useless skill? My mom once took a course and taught me how to do it when I was stuck at home sick with the flu. Now I’m all set if I ever decide to drop out of fashion and join an Amish community.

What’s your most treasured possession?
A little block of brown-painted wood with a bent nail hammered into it and a couple of saw marks. It was the first Christmas present my little brother Dennis made when he was seven.

What book is currently on your nightstand?
8 Weeks to Optimum Health by Dr. Andrew Weil. I’m trying to start eating better and this book gives very practical, common sense advice.

Do you collect anything?
I seem to go through phases with collecting stuff: vintage Japanese men’s magazines, coconut monkey carvings, 70s belt buckles. You know how some people drink and dial when they’re bored? Well, I drink and e-Bay, so let’s just say these collections can be a little eclectic.

What’s your favorite watch?
I’m really loving the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Milgauss with the white face and orange lightning bolt second hand.

What’s your biggest style pet peeve for men?
Guys wearing suits and sport coats that don’t fit them properly. When you buy a new suit, take the time to get it tailored and you’ll thank yourself every time you put it on.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Wear a pink shirt on days you’re hung over or just feel like crap. Trust me on this one. Everyone looks a little better and more alive in a pink shirt. Always keep one in your closet and deploy when necessary.