By now you have undoubtedly heard of Gant's collaboration with designer extraordinaire Michael Bastian. The partnership, the first for both, has made waves in the press for numerous reasons and the collection's debut was definitely one of the most talked about events of New York Fashion Week. I arrived to the showing, this past Saturday, with an eager anticipation for what was surely to be some of the best American sportswear I had seen in a very long time.
The A/W 2010 collection was inspired by the team sport of lacrosse and I remember that when this news first leaked a few folks were skeptical about how Bastian would translate this idea to his actual collection. Grumblings of "bro-wear" or what have you seemed to be the underlying theme as most people associate the sport of lacrosse with douchey kids they never wanted to have a beer with in high school or college. I wasn't so much worried as I was perplexed about this specific inspiration, but reserved judgment until I had seen everything myself.
[Face off, get off.]
Getting to the showing early was probably my greatest coup of NYFW (besides getting invited to anything being the persona non grata I am of course) as I was able to not only get up close and personal with the collection before the throngs of real journalists showed up, but also chat with my pal Antonio, the Deputy Creative Director of Michael Bastian (did I get your big shot title right?), about the collection. Antonio was able to shed some serious light on what Michael and Gant were trying to accomplish with not only the collection, but the collaboration itself.
[Not just one of the nicest, most gracious fellows, but dude also rocks Bean boots.]
The partnership between Gant and MB is really a no brainer when you think about it. Gant's American heritage is extremely deep, but its presence today is felt mostly in Europe. In an attempt to reassert themselves into an American market overrun by Abercombie, Rugby, etc. they had to do something big, but also something that felt natural. Tapping arguably the greatest mind in American sportswear, not named Ralph, to head up such an endeavor was no doubt the ticket they were looking for. It should also be noted that this relationship is extremely fruitful for both parties. Michael, besides the financial freedom and exposure that comes with working with such a powerful brand, is now able to bring his designs to a much large audience. The Gant by MB collection helps him widen his net and offer his clothes to a totally new demographic. With new, more affordable price points Michael is able to share his vision of sportswear with a guy who at one time may not have been aware such a designer existed or even if he was aware was not able to afford it (not unlike myself). Most importantly of all is the new creative freedom Michael can now implement in his namesake line thanks to the Gant collection, but I'll save those thoughts for tomorrow's recap of his runway show and my summation of everything I saw.
The collection itself was awesome. The lacrosse theme was in full force and in a way that didn't seem forced or cheesy whatsoever. Looks were divided into two "categories" representing the "entire life" of the guy Bastian imagined in his head while designing the collection: the locker room and the street.
The locker room portion of the collection/showing highlighted various forms of athletic themed gear ranging from mesh shorts to rugbys. Michael's tailored and refined aesthetic came through even in an area of clothes that is normally associate with a sloppier style. I was incredibly impressed with how much I saw myself eying various garments I wouldn't even think twice about anywhere else. There aren't many people in this world that can designer a pair of mesh shorts that make you go "damn, I need to get those", but if anyone can do it I guess it would be MB.
The other side of the coin was easily the highlight of the entire collection. The street portion was all about what Michael is best known for. Amazing cords (fitting so well no alterations were needed for the showing), outerwear, formal wear (suit separates and dinner jackets) oxfords, and knitwear were both shown and styled in the fashion for which Bastian has already cemented his reputation. Every piece was both on point and wearable, which is hard to say about any other collection shown so far at NYFW. Based on the looks and proposed price points ($125-$695) all of this stuff is easily at the top of my most anticipated list for the upcoming season.
After viewing the entire collection and drinking a few mimosas the overall feeling I got was that Michael was channeling both Gant's and his own heritage. Staying true to both entities must have been a difficult task - taking inspiration from an archive as vast and storied as Gant's could have been an easy starting and stopping point, but it seemed to me that Michael was able to look forwards as well as backwards. Gant by Michael Bastian isn't simply a heritage or diffusion line. Everything is just as classic as you would expect, but is taken to the next level with tons of modern details. My favorite piece I saw that day was the gray dinner jacket for it perfectly encompassed what this entire partnership is all about. It's an age old piece, done thousands of times over, but in this case brought to life with mesh lapels. That right there is the kind of thing Gant by Michael Bastian is bringing to the table - an uncanny ability to bridge both classic American sportswear with a unique, forward thinking ideal. This M.O. is what has made Michael one of my favorite designers in the first place and what blew me away at the showing. Michael's own words ring even truer now that I've seen it with my own eyes. "I don't want anyone to think this is, like, a baby Michael Bastian or a slightly fancier Gant line. I approached this cleanly." Clean. Handsome. Refined. Athletic. Youthful. Damn. Straight.