For The Discerning Few: You grew up in Rochester, New York in the seventies/eighties. How has it influenced your designs and your vision of menswear?
Michael Bastian: I would say I always go back to that place and that period every season. The men there always wore a more “deep woods” and rugged version of preppy: lots of corduroy, technical gear, down vests, work boots, flannel shirts with knit ties and a navy blazer. It’s still how I think guys look best.
FTDF: How did you dress when you were in your twenties?
Michael Bastian: I think I’ve always dressed pretty much the same way I dress today: a mix of casual sports stuff with more tailored pieces. All kind of mixed up and unstudied.
FTDF: What does preppy stand for as far as you are concerned?
Michael Bastian: I think “preppy” is just a fast and easy word to apply to classic American style – which at its best, is a mix of a bunch of stuff – classic Brooks Brothers, sports influences, military influences. But the most important thing is how it is worn: it should always look approachable and not look too thought out.
FTDF: How long do you think this preppy moment we are in is going to last?
Michael Bastian: Preppy never really goes away. I think it just sometimes get pushed to the back when the world becomes obsessed with brands and logos and things like that. Preppy is always more about the person in the clothes than the clothes themselves. The clothes themselves are actually very simple, so personal style becomes more important.
FTDF: Would you agree that every designer is influenced by a particular period? If so what is yours?
Michael Bastian: I think everyone becomes fascinated by the era when they were just becoming aware of style, but were too young to actually participate in any of the fun stuff. You always go back to that era and try to relive it as an adult. It always holds a certain attraction. For me it’s the late 70s and early 80s: post Studio 54, but pre-grunge.
FTDF: You have your own line/brand, MBNYC, but you also design for GANT and for Barneys, how do you manage to keep them separate?
Michael Bastian: Sometimes it’s hard to keep them separate, because I’m one person and I like what I like, but if I try to think of a different guy for each line it helps me. For example with my own line Michael Bastian, I always personalize it and do what I want to wear myself right now.
For GANT by Michael Bastian, I think of who I was (or wanted to be) when I was in my 20s.
For Barneys, that guys is just the dressed up version of the MB guy.
FTDF: What are the 5 or 10 garments every preppy guy must have in his wardrobe?
Michael Bastian: 5-pocket corduroy jeans, navy cashmere crewneck sweater, blue and white striped oxford buttondown shirt, a down vest, a good pair of slim jeans, a navy blazer and a pair of cordovan penny loafers.
FTDF: You are famous for being inspired by movies. What movie has influenced you the most in terms of style?
Michael Bastian: That really changes every season, but I would have to say two movies, Jaws and Ordinary People really had a big influence.
FTDF: You are an American, and your designs have a strong American identity, however do you sometimes get inspired by things or people from abroad?
Michael Bastian: Well lately now that I’m spending a lot of time in Stockholm for my GANT job, I see a bit of Scandinavian style sneaking into to both collections. The people there really have their own style that is completely out of the gravitational pull of New York, Milan and Paris: cleaner and neater, but also more organic and handmade.
FTDF: You don’t seem really interested by fashion. Would you agree if we said that you were a menswear designer rather than a fashion designer?
Michael Bastian: I love this question! And you are right. There are lots of things in my life that interest me more than fashion. But personal style? That I’m endlessly fascinated by, and it often seems to be the opposite of fashion.
FTDF: What are your essentials for this summer?
Michael Bastian: A great new bathingsuit, a lightweight cashmere crewneck, a few linen-blend button down shirts, and my military shorts from Spring ’12.
We would like to thank Michael Bastian for his availability and his kindness. We would also like to thank Eugenia Gonzalez Ruiz for her crucial help.
This interview was conducted by VM & PAL. Paris, April 2012. All Rights Reserved.