The Life Aquatic with Michael Bastian
by John Lockett
It’s fair to say that the world of men’s fashion in America is dominated by dusty old relics. Ralph Lauren. Tommy Hilfiger. Calvin Klein. Don’t get me wrong, they’re amazing designers and brands that rightly deserve credit for their impact on fashion. But in this day and age, one man stands above the rest in terms of American menswear: Michael Bastian.
Bastian, who was just nominated for the CFDA menswear designer of the year, is a genius when it comes to designing preppy rags that reek of good ol’ Americana. Launched in 2008, his past collections were created around red-blooded themes such as backwoods America and Kerouac’s beat manifesto On the Road. Nearly all his clothes feature a military undercurrent, embracing masculinity to its fullest.
Bastian’s S/S ’11 collection was inspired by Jacques Cousteau and his crew of French sailors who explored all corners of the ocean in the 70s and 80s. He also drew references from the Navy Seals, going back to Bastian’s ongoing military influence. The 41 pieces showcased during Fashion Week last fall were nautical in every sense of the word, but not like most summer collections that tend to have more of a beachy So-Cal or Mediterranean vibe. Bold shades of yellow and orange are used in subtle ways (except for the canary yellow raincoat and pants). Even his interpretation and use of wetsuits is remarkable.
Perhaps the greatest thing about Bastian’s newest collection is how it remains quintessentially Michael Bastian. The man knows how to keep classic preppy alive, without letting it get stale. He emphasizes the importance of quality materials coupled with flawless tailoring. While his pricey, self-titled label may not be financially accessible to most (including Bastian, himself, according to a recent article by Esquire) his partnership with GANT offers clothes that are just as nice, but more affordable (still pretty expensive though).
Although Bastian’s CFDA nom means he’s an established designer in the fashion world, he has yet to become a household name. But keep an eye out for this guy. Before you know it, he’ll be up there with those other influential old relics we all adore. Dust and all.