New York Fashion Week: Interview with Michael Bastian

February 16, 2012

If fashion were like the high school cafeteria in John Hughes' Pretty in Pink, designer Michael Bastian would be Molly Ringwald's perfect guy, a blend of the popular, preppy Blane character with the humor and wit of New Wave-loving Duckie. As the designer for mega-brand GANT by Michael Bastian, he's done more to usher bright preppy style into menswear like no other, but it's never stuffy or snobby and always with a sense of humor and color. Yesterday, Bastian's bold, youthful take for GANT by Michael Bastian, dubbed "The Lucky Ones", found Bastian waxing poetic about his college days in the 1980s and the Mod and Ska tunes that ruled his Walkman. He infused the dapper style of UK bands like The Specials and The English Beat into the GANT aesthetic, and it came across as a really nice hodgepodge for people that don't dress for one subculture, but rather a mix of many. We spoke with Bastian a few hours before his New York Fashion Week presentation.

You've always said that music is a big influence when you're designing. Yeah, just to get me in the mood when I’m designing. It also helps me keep the GANT by Michael Bastian and Michael Bastian lines separate, in a way, because when you design two lines it’s really important that they each have their own identity, so if I have different music playing in my head, I’m in a different space, and nothing does that like music.

This collection harks back to your college days—Boston in the 1980s. What were your jams in college? I was really into this Mod revival that was happening in the '80s with bands like The English Beat and The Specials and The Cure. It almost boils down to one song. Like someone was just saying, okay there are a lot of kids that aren’t familiar with mod and ska and things like that, and it's like, what would you tell them to watch or to listen to? All you have to do is listen to one song—“Mirror in the Bathroom” by The English Beat. I love that song, it sums it up for me.

So how did the musical influences trickle into the collection? Well, the way mod guys and girls would dress when they went to these clubs is all over it. Like, we took the image from the album cover Quadrophenia and kind of reproduced that look in a modern way. You know, the whole checkerboard influence, the little black suits, the skinny ties. I think the mod element with the women is the strongest—pencil skirts, tights, flat shiny pointy-toed shoes. At least in my head it’s in there, I hope people can see it.

I noticed there’s always a really strong preppy theme at the core. Yeah, well, that’s kind of me in my default mode, and I can never get too far away from it. But also with GANT, that was founded in 1049, and we’re one of the preppiest brands ever—a good heritage American brand. You know it’s in their history, it’s in my history, so we just kind of go with it.

Have you ever gotten into DJing or would you ever? Michael Bastian the DJ on the 1s and 2s? You know what I want to do? Because people always comment on our music—both on the MB side and the GANT side—I want to go on iTunes and make a playlist. We should do the Michael Bastian playlist and the GANT playlist.

Michael Bastian mixtapes. Exactly! I don’t know why we’re not doing it because we can do it, we got all the music off of iTunes anyway, it’s all there. So, I think that’d be fun.

New York Fashion Week: Interview with Michael Bastian