The Return of Michael Bastian

Mallory Passuite

After sitting out a season to revamp his brand, Michael Bastian, winner of the 2011 CFDA Fashion Award for Menswear Designer of the Year, will make a comeback at New York Fashion Week. In the days just prior—immediately following an intense model casting, actually—Bastian took a moment to discuss Fashion’s Night Out, his label and his favorite season in New York City.

You’ve been out and about on Fashion’s Night Out before. Do you have a favorite memory? Michael Bastian: Yes, I do! It was the Gant guys showering in the window last year. We had had that lacrosse theme [for the Gant collection], and I said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we re-created a locker room shower scene?” because in the ad campaign we had a guy in the shower. The Gant visual people created this shower, and I walked up to the store [on Fashion’s Night Out] and saw a crowd for, like, two blocks around it. People took pictures; the models came out on the street in towels. It was such a spectacle!

That’s awesome. What are your plans this year? MB: First, I’m going to Bloomingdale’s for the Michael Bastian for Dockers collaboration, which was connected to the GQ Best New [Menswear Designer in America] award. And then I’m going down to the brand-new Gant store on Prince Street for an appearance with Christopher Bastin—B-A-S-T-I-N—who designs Gant Rugger. So it’s Bastian and Bastin. [Laughs] We’re gonna hit both those stores.

So, your collaboration with Gant has been hugely successful. And now you have some new ones, like the one you mentioned, plus Havaianas and Randolph Engineering—all of which have been well received. There are obviously a ton of designer collaborations today, and while the products of some verge on feeling gimmicky or subpar, yours seem to uphold your vision. Why do you think your collaborations work? MB: I think you have to pick your collaborations very carefully. You have to have a relationship to the brand that you’re going to collaborate with, or some kind of shared idea or vision. We’re pretty careful with the ones that we say yes to. We had used Havaianas in our show for a couple years; Havaianas had noticed that and came to us. It was the same with Randolph Engineering, our sunglasses. They were my favorite sunglass and we were always using them. Those two were really easy.

With Gant, it was a different story. Gant had kind of disappeared in America for a long time. But it’s a great American heritage brand. When Gant gave me a call and said, “We want to talk to you about possibly working together,” I wasn’t in the market for a serious collaboration. But I thought, OK, I’m going to go take this meeting because I really want to find out what the hell happened to Gant—like, where did you go, Gant? So I went and we figured out a way to make it work. I’m so happy we did because it just really worked.

Since the last collection you showed under your own name, you’ve taken a season off, done some business restructuring and won the CFDA Fashion Award for Menswear Designer of the Year. What are you most excited about now? MB: Coming back. It’s weird taking that season off. It will forever be the missing season. Now, as you said, we reorganized our whole company. We have all-new factories, better pricing, new accounts, and I’m just so excited about New York Fashion Week and kind of showing the world we’re back.

You’ve traveled extensively throughout your career, but remain a New York designer. What are some of your favorite spots in the City? MB: I love where I live. I live down in the Village, but more NYU than East or West, you know? There’s kind of that little magical spot right above Washington Square Park that, to me, feels almost more Boston than New York. The scale is lower, the vibe is different. There are students running around all over the place because we have NYU and The New School, and there’s a beautiful little PS 41 at the end of my block, so there’s little kids. I love hanging out in that area. It’s just so inspiring. To me, it just feels like my little secret New York.

That’s great. Last question: what is your favorite season in New York and why do you love it? MB: There’s two seasons. But they’re not even seasons. In New York, they end up being, like, a week. [Laughs] That week of spring, when it gets to be about 70 degrees and it’s not humid. The trees suddenly are in bloom and everyone’s so excited and you don’t have to wear a coat for the first time. I love that week. And there’s the fall equivalent, where it’s maybe mid-September and it’s just cooled down enough. Those are those magical in-between times that are so fleeting for some reason. By the time you realize you’re in it, it’s over almost. But aren’t those great? I can’t even say spring and I can’t even say fall. It’s like those tiny, tiny little windows of when it’s turning into something else. That’s when New York is at its best.