Best New Menswear Designers of AmericaEverything You Need to Know About Best New Menswear Designers in America All-Star Michael Bastian
The designer talks menswear's long game and which pieces you need to pick up from his new Gap collaboration.
In one sentence, describe your brand.
Classic American menswear done with a modern fit and attention to details.
If you could go back and give yourself advice when you started your company, what would it be?
Make sure your first significant hire is focused on the business side of things.
What — other than location, of course — makes your brand American?
I’d like to think my brand shares some of those characteristics we like to think of as classically American — a certain straight-forwardness, honesty, a sense of humor, inclusiveness, practicality — all those great Yankee traits. And I don’t mean the baseball team.
What was the second BNMDA experience like compared to the first?
This one was definitely more involved with the designing of a full capsule collection for Gap. The first time we just did a pair of pants and a shirt for Dockers. This round was also extensively documented, which is great. There’s now a really cool permanent record of the process that will live on forever.
What is your favorite piece from your Gap collection, and why?
It’s actually not easy to pick one thing … the ski jacket with the zip-off sleeves seems like it’s going to be the iconic piece of the collection, but I think I personally might be getting the most use out of the black tech half-zip and the navy shetland sweater with red racing stripes.
What was the hardest piece from your Gap collection to get right?
Actually nothing seemed very hard for Gap to get right, nothing took more than one round of corrections. I’ve had things in my own collection go three rounds and still not be exactly the way I wanted them.
What’s the one inspiration source you consistently return to in your creative process?
I consistently go back to myself: What am I looking for or wanting to wear myself right now that I don’t already have? I always figure if I’m looking for it, a lot of guys are.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned in your career?
To keep your eye on the long game. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the season to season business but to have real longevity in this field you’ve got to always maintain your point of view and what makes your brand unique. Your business is always going to have ups and downs but there needs to be a certain consistency. We’re in an industry where everyone loves the new guy, but they also love re-discovering a brand they’ve known for awhile.
What’s the best thing about being a menswear designer right now? What’s the most challenging thing?
The best thing is how closely and immediately you can connect with the guys who buy your clothes. You can have a real on-going dialogue through social media that wasn’t possible before. The most challenging thing is it’s becoming very hard for independent luxury brands to compete with the big groups.
What is the biggest change you’ve seen with your customers since you started your business?
I think they’ve gotten younger. Maybe it’s because of my GANT or Uniqlo collaborations or maybe young guys are getting more interested in dressing well.
What’s the one item every man needs for fall 2016?
A heavier, tweedy sport coat that could be used as an outerwear substitute. Maybe it’s global warming but it doesn’t seem really truly cold 'til mid-November in New York. It’s really got to be snowing before I feel like pulling out a proper topcoat. Until then its just a sport coat with varying degrees of hat/scarf/glove combos.
Who do you think is the most stylish man alive right now and why?
The three guys who own Barbanera Shoes are just next-level. Perfectly not perfect.