Michael Bastian Has Seen the Future of Retail, and It Includes Hay-------
Is hay underused in retail contexts? Michael Bastian—who opened his first-ever retail store, a pop-up in conjunction with Boffo’s Building Fashion program, this week—is making the argument. Bastian partnered with the New York- and Guadalajara-based architecture firm Bittertang to realize a space out of which to sell his Fall ’13 range, inspired by the same creepy New England-gothic vibe that seeped into the collection. For Fall, Bastian had looked at the paintings of Andrew Wyeth, like the famous Christina’s World; Bittertang’s Michael Loverich and Antonio Torres did, too.
The result is at least equal parts installation art and shop. From the outside, at the new SuperPier on 15th Street and the West Side Highway, it’s not even clear that the Bastian store is a store; it looks like an enormous mountain of hay. Once you enter, via a small passageway, the opening room doesn’t even have clothes: Its wax walls, which give off an evocative smell of beeswax when the weather is warm, enclose two tiny, twisted twin beds and not much more. A lithograph of two unseemly brothers—who look ready for a playdate with the twin sisters from The Shining—is suspended in the wall.
“You can go anywhere, to any shop, and you’re bombarded with merchandise,” said Loverich. “People don’t really give you an experience at all. Michael was really specific about wanting people to step in and be transformed.”
“All the commerce is kept in the back,” Bastian confirmed, gesturing past the hand-knit curtains of black feathers. “I think this is the future of retail—you have to give people a reason to come in, other than ‘This is just a bunch of merch, pull out your credit card.’ You can buy anything online. You don’t have to get out of your bed [for that].”
In the sinister back room, there is plenty of merchandise from the Fall collection, including, most tantalizingly for Bastian fans, runway-only pieces such as hand-knit Ouija-board sweaters and the Stubbs & Wootton slippers Bastian commissions for his shows. It also includes a few Bastian touches that will be exportable when he does open his own permanent store, like the rail dividers inspired by the backs of Windsor chairs. A permanent store is in the future, Bastian said, though no timetable has been set. That should give a new generation of bees plenty of time to get to work on the next four hundred pounds of wax.
Michael Bastian is open, through November 24, at the SuperPier at Hudson River Park, 15th Street and the West Side Highway.