September 04, 2013 New York
His invitation bore the legend French men always break your heart. But despite the warning, and hot on the heels of Fall's grim, gothic collection, Spring found Bastian in a bubbly mood. "We want this to feel joyous," he explained, "which is an underused word."
His joy came brightly colored and lavishly printed—with more prints, in fact, than he has ever used before. There was an abundance of leopard. There were pineapples, slingshots, balloons. Even shirts that from afar seemed innocuously patterned revealed paperclips and wineglasses up close. "Print abuse" was his own term for it. Every guy reliably has a print shirt, but print on print on print on print, as the looks were styled here? "That felt fresh."
Fresh or French? Therein lies the question. It's hard to see the pile-on of pineapples and paperclips as anything other than American brash. The strength of the Bastian look is that it is impervious to any attempts to strip its muscular sportiness and its yen for camp. A Paris-printed cap and a tourist-camera prop didn't telegraph the American-in-Paris idea as clearly as it might, nor did the live performance by the American R&B chanteuse Alice Smith do much to reinforce the mood. That's the distraction of Internet-era reach: Like print on print on print, it offers the narcotic lure of more, more, more. But what whiffs of Francophilia distracted from here is just how fully formed Bastian's own world is unto itself. As if to prove the point, he customizes accessories to match. He doesn't need to travel. His people—Stubbs & Wootton for shoes, Eugenia Kim for hats, Randolph Engineering for shades, Frank Clegg for bags—come to him.