Michael Bastian has long been a leading name in menswear. The affable designer's collections have a wearable but sophisticated aesthetic—streamlined suits and tailored separates in colorful, ultra-luxe fabrics that speak to both classic Americana and edgy New York City styles. Weeks before his spring 2016 show at the first-ever New York Fashion Week: Men's, Bastian sat down to chat with us about his West Coast inspirations, the energy he draws from NYC and how the street style in his neighborhood is more entertaining than reading a magazine.
It seems like the City is experiencing a menswear renaissance. How do you see men's fashion week nurturing that?
MB: It's the first time that the CFDA is separating out a dedicated men's week, and we are super excited because we've been asking for this for a while. It's going to throw a spotlight specifically on American menswear and American men's designers—which we haven't had in ages. When we were mixed in with the women's shows in New York, we got kind of lost. Putting together a critical mass of designers is very exciting for us. London separated out London Fashion Week Men's, and it was a huge success. We're hoping for the same success here.
What can we expect from your new collection?
MB: This season is about Bel Air in Los Angeles. We wanted to investigate a particular West Coast glamour. People think of the West Coast and they think of surfers and beat-up casual clothes, but there's a whole idea out there that's not that, that's more dressed up. We're also introducing women's wear for the first time into our runway show, ironic for the first men's week.
Is there a show you're looking forward to seeing this season?
MB: I have a personal rule: I don't go to any shows until I've had my own. But after my show, my good friend Luis Fernandez, designer of Craft Atlantic, is having a presentation. I'll be going.
How would you describe the difference between men's and women's fashion weeks?
MB: Men's is typically easier going and friendlier, let's put it that way. There are fewer of us, and we all pretty much see each other at every event. It's a tighter group than women's. With women's there are more designers at every level, many more shows. That's one of the best things about being a menswear designer in New York—there's a very tight group of us, and we help each other out when we can.
Where can we find you hanging out on a day off?
MB: I'm lucky because I live in Greenwich Village. From 14th Street down to Washington Square Park and from University [Place] over to Seventh [Avenue], that's my zone. It doesn't have what people typically think of as a New York vibe—it's much more laid-back. There are a lot of students from NYU and the New School running around my block. I get tons of inspiration from them—I just walk out of my front door. I like seeing how they put themselves together, what they're wearing. It's better than reading a magazine, actually.
What are some of your favorite spots in the City?
MB: There's one restaurant that's a little bit hidden but really worth searching out. It's called Piadina, a tiny little Italian place on 10th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. It's the most authentic Italian food I've had in the City. They only take cash, but it's affordable, and they're very friendly. I just love it. It's my secret neighborhood place.
New York Fashion Week: Men's takes place July 13–16. Visit michaelbastiannyc.com for more information about the designer.