Michael Bastian's 300-piece collection was so densely laden with personal references that you felt a twinge of regret: No retailer could possibly do justice to the multilayered story he was telling with his clothes. Bastian claimed that his new gig as menswear designer for Bill Blass has liberated him to get more personal with his own line. "What must I do to make you love me?" was the poignant plea woven into a scarf. The jacquard lining of a classic tweed jacket featured an alphabet with the letters L-O-V-E highlighted. And Bastian's eyes featured as a Laura Mars-like print on T-shirts and in jacket linings. Then there were the antique keys that he hung off his limited-edition chinos (the key motif was also woven into knits or embroidered, WASP-style, on trousers). What doors might those keys unlock? It was all a mystery, and it meant that a collection with the superficial appearance of classic American sportswear spiraled off into enigmatic idiosyncrasy.
The "chubby koala" motif on a sweater? Absolutely random, which is undoubtedly why Bastian is big in Japan. He has an eye for the kind of fetishizing detail that the Japanese excel at. So his corduroy was the traditionally heavy English kind, rather than the lighter Italian variety. He replaced the belt of a trench with a martingale (the coat looked so much better for it that it seemed stupid no one had thought of it sooner). And he revived the nylon-filled shirt jacket he remembered his uncle wearing. Bastian was thinking of the shirt or sweater that becomes a jacket as a response to a world where the climate is changingin-between clothes, if you like. Again, such a notion gave the collection a depth that wasn't immediately apparent. If you take the secrets that men keep as the key idea (John Kennedy, Jr. as inspiration only sustained the backstory), an anonymous tan nylon jacket that opened to reveal a vivid orange lining might even be the key piece.