Interview. Michael Bastian for GANT

The lacrosse-inspired men’s sportswear collection for Fall was presented at New York Fashion Week in February and is now available in stores worldwide. Both Bastian and GANT work with the idea of classic American sportswear and the line is a hybrid of GANT’s philosophy and history, coupled with Bastian’s perspective on how modern guys want to dress.

“The key to the American look is to never appear like you thought about it too much. It always has to look real and approachable and spontaneous in my opinion. This doesn’t mean that it’s not thought through or pulled together, it just means that the final affect should be more about the guy and his personality than what he’s wearing.”

Bastian grew up in a small town near Lake Ontario in upstate New York and GANT has always been in his life. His grandfather, his father, his brother and himself have all worn the classic brand. After graduating business school Bastian moved to NYC where he was the men’s fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman before launching his namesake men’s wear line four years ago. His basic idea was to offer a new American brand for men, something more modern and luxurious, but also a little broken down and familiar. Now in its ninth season, Michael Bastian can be found in shops all over the world and Bastian has been nominated three times for the prestigious CFDA Menswear Designer of the Year Award.

“My style influences always go back to classic American tailoring and sportswear. I think the American tradition of combining sporty and more tailored elements in a very un-studied way always looks great on men. For the first time we’re doing a suit, GANT has never done suits. To me that’s a very classic American way of dressing. You might wear the jacket with jeans one day and the pants with a v-neck sweater one day or you might wear the suit.”

Bastian thinks of his version of the GANT guy as the younger brother to the Michael Bastian guy. He’s more casual, and a little more athletic, but with a modern edge that feels both approachable and sophisticated. The Fall/Winter 2010 collection is a capsule collection that will be revisited on a season-to-season basis: “Lacrosse is a fascinating sport with its own language and traditions. I also loved that it was this uniquely American sport. Each season will have its own unique theme that will never be repeated.” Bastian who loves walking around and absorbing what’s going on around him when he has some time off discovered an article on lacrosse while on a plane and knew he had found the inspiration for the inaugural collection.

“Every element has some kind of reference to lacrosse, whether explicit or concealed. This idea translates into something more graphic on mesh shorts, t-shirts and ruggers, or it appears more subtly, such as a goal net-print lining the inside of a blazer. In sweaters, we’ve played around with all types of techniques such as hand-knit, intarsia and jacquard elements. And the colors are really old-school varsity colors. Faded burgundy, orange and green, with touches of classic gray, white, navy, and beige. I also paid particular attention to those key items that every guy needs, the perfect navy blazer, the destroyed chino, a perfect gray flannel trouser, great dark jeans and a classic beige raincoat.”

Working with classic American style, do you consider yourself nostalgic?

“Memories start a lot of the ideas in collections sometimes. But it’s always the things you didn’t view that are the most fascinating and beautiful. I was to young to really live that life in the early Eighties but I had my subscription of GQ and I think we’re all kind of revisiting that time when you were like thirteen, fourteen and you were developing a personal style but didn’t have the ability or the money to live that life. But I’m not interested in making it feel too retro or vintage. It’s all about this moment, and not a rehash of what has come before. When you pull up old ideas, and are too direct with referencing old-school style it can very easily morph into a costume, which I don’t feel is very appealing to modern guys. If it’s not real it’s not relevant. These days it’s all about being functional, sporty and pulled together.”

Why do Michael Bastian and GANT work well together?

“GANT and I speak a very similar language. We’re both focused on a very American point of view. As a designer I don’t do very many collaborations, mainly because my own line is still relatively new and I felt my strengths were best suited to working with an American heritage brand, of which there are very few. But this partnership is different, and presents many interesting opportunities.”

New for Spring 2011 is a much anticipated women’s collection, Bastian’s first ever, a female counterpart to his GANT guy, unveiled Wednesday together with the men’s collection at New York Fashion Week (watch the campaign video here). Right now the first GANT by Michael Bastian collection is out, available at Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, Harry Rosen in Canada, Selfridges in the UK and Colette in Paris. In addition, the line is available at GANT flagship stores.

Interview by Antonia Nessen and drawing by Gustaf von Arbin.