The Two Sides Of Michael Bastian
After his inaugural Gant by Michael Bastian presentation—for which he transformed a pre-war gymnasium into a Bruce Weber fantasy filled with Gant-clad high school jocks (pictured below)—Bastian heaved a sigh of relief. “I feel like I have two kids,” he told us. “The easy one’s done. Next up is the problem child.” The easy one—Gant—was very good. Never mind that it’s owned by Swedes; Gant has spent decades making pitch-perfect American sportswear. Tapping Bastian for this collection makes eminent sense, and he tweaked rather than twisted that heritage. He nailed the corduroys, threw in a few great blazers and a rugby shirt (this is Gant, after all), intarsia’ed the knits with laxers and sticks, and called it a day. It was perfectly simple: no muss, no fuss.
Now, what of the line he had jokingly referred to as the problem child, his much more expensive signature collection (above)? He certainly didn’t take the easy path here. The inspiration, the designer said, was a British TV doc called Sex Change Soldier, about a veteran paratrooper who feels he’s actually a woman inside and undergoes a sex change. That got Bastian thinking about the two sides (at least) to every guy. Cue the runway’s opening shot: the first walker pausing in the entryway to rip off a ski mask. The man hidden and the man revealed—can’t say it much clearer than that.
Like Steven Cox and Daniel Silver at Duckie Brown, Bastian is marching to a skinhead beat this season. The totems were on display: the Dr. Martens, the suspenders, as well as such punkish close cousins as spike belts and safety pins. And yet, we’re still in Bastian country, so they’re paired with the fine Brunello Cucinelli knits, the perfectly tailored suit jackets. (The “menace mask” that opened the show? Cashmere.) But even after the skins vanished, to be replaced by a procession of uptown-ready young gentlemen, their rebel spirit cast a shadow. Suddenly, you noticed every little chink in the refined armor: the Stubbs & Wootton slippers embroidered with flaming skulls, the dog collar necklaces, the slightly kinky gloves. Even in the quietest moments, there’s a little menace mixed in. It made for one of Bastian’s most fascinating, penetrating shows to date.
For complete coverage of Fall 2010 menswear, visit www.gq.com/fashion.