It's always a special treat when we have the opportunity to speak to a designer with as much menswear clout as the highly revered Michael Bastian. Where do you start with all the accolades he has accrued over the years? His eponymous brand is synonymous with expertly-edited American luxury, he's been a recipient of the CFDA award, and the collection he designs for GANT is a perpetual favorite for dedicated menswear enthusiasts. As his Japanese-inspired Fall '14 collection is readied to hit stores in the coming months, we spoke to Mr. Bastian about the current state of men's fashion and his own personal tenets of style ...
What are your general thoughts on the current state of menswear?
That's such a big question. It would take an hour over drinks to get it all out-- but in general it’s strong and getting stronger. Young guys are pushing our whole industry in ways they weren’t even 10 years ago and it's great.
When you think about the newer crop of American menswear designers, which ones stand out to you the most?
The group of American men's designers isn't so large and we're all friends more or less, so I never talk about other designers. The industry is tough enough without being judged by the guys in the trenches with you as well.
With regards to the Michael Bastian brand, what standout items/silhouettes can shoppers expect from your upcoming Spring and Fall collections?
Spring '14 (what's in stores now) is brighter than we've been in the past with more patterns and unexpected combinations. For Fall '14 the inspiration was Japan and this group of Japanese menswear guys who I admire so much, so it's more serious and elegant. But whatever inspiration we go with each season, we always remain true to our self - it's always classic American menswear done at a luxury level with a more European fit.
When you are designing for Gant by Michael Bastian, do you channel a different set of inspirations than when you are designing for your own brand?
Yes-- any other lines we work on (like GANT by Michael Bastian or our Uniqlo collaboration) gets its own specific inspiration, color card, even music play list. It's important that they all remain unique and independent and not just watered down versions of our designer line.
In recent years, the "vintage/heritage" and "Made In America" themes have gotten stronger in the realm of menswear. Do you see these trends continuing in the next couple of years?
I think all of us would be happy to support our country and make our things closer to home-- it's just a matter of finding American factories who can give us the same quality you get from factories in other countries. It's not even really a cost thing for us at the designer level, it's more of a quality thing. One thing we currently make in America is our leather goods with the amazing Frank Clegg Leatherworks (see below) in Fall River Massachusetts. It’s a small family company.
It's widely accepted now that American men are dressing better than ever before - what do you think accounts for this general upgrade of American men's style?
I think the biggest step American guys have taken is being more comfortable with clothes that fit their body-- it used to be everything was super loose and baggy and I'm glad to see they are finally listening to the blogs and magazines and buying the right size.
With regards to men's fashion, what do you think is the biggest difference between American Luxury and European Luxury?
American luxury is much more approachable-- it shouldn't be intimidating or too perfect.
Let's talk a little bit about your personal style - do you constantly make new additions to your closet or do you have a style uniform you regularly adhere to?
I usually stick to the basics: 5 pocket cords, navy cashmere sweaters, blue and white striped shirts, etc... Then I always add in a few things from the latest collection, just to make sure everything is working properly.
Casual wear can be really tricky for men to pull off some times - what are the staples of your casual looks?
That's a hard one to answer since what is appropriate 'casual' for a guy who lives in Santa Monica is completely different from that of a guy who lives in Boston or New York. I guess the only general rule is remember that casual doesn't mean sloppy-- you never know who you're going to run into walking the dog.
When it comes to leisure and relaxation, what does a perfect and rejuvenating weekend look like for Michael Bastian?
My ideal weekend is hanging by a pool-- as long as it's sunny, I'm happy and relaxed.
What about travel, even though you have a busy schedule, do you find time to visit and experience new cultures?
I travel so much for work that packing and getting back on a plane doesn't always sound so great or relaxing. Sometimes staying in your own city and doing nothing is the best vacation.
Lastly for our readers, can you give us three ironclad rules of dressing that will make them better dressers and more stylish men?
- Trust yourself
- Know a good tailor
- Buy less but buy better
For more information, visit www.michaelbastiannyc.com
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