Twenty years down the line, there is every chance that Michael Bastian will be, well, a bastion of American menswear. It helps that he's just picked up the reins of the men's business at Bill Blass, but more to the point is his ability to weave all his threads of reference into a comprehensive story. This season, for example, he'd been looking at Bruce Weber's first-ever shoot for GQ in 1981. That's where the papery nylon anorak over a bathing suit came from. Then there was a motocross subtext that sprang from his absorption in Paul Newman: A Life in Pictures. Danny Quatrochi's 1983 photo of Police drummer Stewart Copeland in a T-shirt with the cheeky legend "Cherie" inspired Bastian's Tesorino ("little treasure"). And so on. But it was hardly necessary to know every wrinkle of inspiration to appreciate the casual efficacy of his clothes.
In Bastian's case, there is always a sense of mission: to celebrate the physicality of men at ease with themselves. Which is one reason his key item has turned out to be a pair of shorts. They came as easy as cutoffs, as sexy as joggers, as functional as the hiking shorts that emerged when corduroys were zipped off mid-thigh. Bastian said everything was supposed to feel like you were on your way to the beach or you'd just got back. He doesn't like sweatpants, so instead he offered karate pants, suitable for dragging on over a bathing suit. Even his more elaborate items had the same relaxed flair: a glen-plaid linen blazer, a herringbone jacket in hemp, or the dressiest piece, a tissue-weight cashmere tux, deceptively simple until Bastian pulled back the jacket to reveal a pleated lining. Actually, a deceptive, seductive simplicity might be his leitmotif. The patching effect on a corduroy jacket was achieved by laborious hand-stitching. The belted cardigan Bastian called Santana (and we know as Starsky) came in a luxuriant cashmere. And the lining of a double-faced mackintosh was sprayed silver, then washedlike having the Factory inside your coat, which, for some, would be the consummate private pleasure.