[Dapper creatures from the deep...]
Though Michael Bastian is too humble and too nice of a guy to ever admit it, his shows at New York Fashion Week have become an absolute focal point for those of us interested in menswear. Since his debut collection in 2006 he, along with a select few menswear designers, has helped shape men's clothing in America as we know it. Whether influence like that is intentional or not it is something to acknowledge. The Michael Bastian guy has grown as much as he has stayed the same since 2006. It's rare that a designer can continue to evolve while continuing to stick with the aesthetic that put him on the map, but that's exactly what Michael has been able to do. After his F/W 2010 show I put forth the notion that with his Gant collection firmly in place he now had "a safe place to design what made him an icon in the first place", while taking his namesake line to places it hadn't been. Though it was not as edgy as his F/W 2010 collection, S/S 2011 did showcase the many sides of Michael Bastian.
[Above: Bastian's moodboard for S/S 2011 courtesy of Details.]
S/S 2011 kicked off with direct nods to one of Michael's inspirations - Jacques Cousteau, though not the explorer/researcher/naval officer explicitly. Instead, the collection drew from Cousteau's crew and divers. The first group of looks found themselves heavily based in the technical gear and colorway often seen on Cousteau's crew - black and yellow neoprene, zippers, hoods. It's doubtful any of this gear will find its way onto the shelves of, let's say, Bergdorf Goodman, but served its purpose nonetheless. The show opened on a bold and adventurous note (both literally and figuratively), not unlike many of the "Saville Row skinhead" looks from F/W 2010.
As the showmanship of the first looks subsided, the collection eased into Bastian's signature sportswear and military influence. Along with Cousteau's divers, US Navy Seals served as inspiration for S/S 2011. Colorful, technical gear (think bright anoraks and windbreakers) mixed expertly with olive cotton and suede. These two ideas came together as MB's "tough guy on the beach and underwater" walked down the runway.
Of the various sportswear showcased it was the knits that impressed me the most. Bastian has always prided himself on his cashmere crew necks and he is often quoted naming that item as one of the pieces he could never truly find when he served as Men's Fashion Director at Bergdorf Goodman. From bright color blocking and stripes to iconic graphics, his knits held attention while still being incredibly wearable. Another idea that cemented S/S 2011 was the notion of pairing razor sharp tailoring with relaxed sportswear. By placing perfectly tailored sportcoats on top of generally casual outfits a superb atmosphere of dressed up, dressed down was easily crafted. It was an appropriate representation of where American menswear stands today. The double breasted jackets shined the hardest thanks to their trim silhouettes and updated proportions.
The show ended, as it tends to do, with formal wear. Bastian's bread and butter consisted of a midnight blue, peak lapel one button tux jacket (paired with a subtle leopard camo shirt and tie), a white, two button dinner jacket with what looked to be hunting inspired pockets and, finally, the best item I have seen out of every S/S 2011 collection - a black watch shawl collar tuxedo jacket in a fabric that must be felt to be believed.
As is the trend these days, S/S 2011 also had its fair share of collaborative efforts. MB's collaborative sunglasses with Randolph Engineering were badass as hell and a obvious next step in their long relationship - RE have showed up in pretty much every MB collection. Havaianas flip-flops, in exclusive prints and graphics featured prominently in the collection itself, weren't my cup of tea, but part of me wonders if this little partnership wasn't what funded the entire show in the first place. As for footwear, the Stubbs and Wootton x Michael Bastian catalog only grew deeper thanks to leopard camo espadrilles and graphic linen slippers.
Sure, all the speedos don't really fit into an American marketplace, but everything else was extremely on point. MB S/S 2011 seemed really dialed in on both the pulse and future of American menswear. The arguments against the neoprene showmanship seem to be missing the point. It's New York Fashion Week and Michael is one of it's biggest draws, especially now that Thom Browne has jumped ship to Paris. The guy deserves to have a little fun and the chance to do something "out there". And you know what, he can send a dude down the runway in a full scuba suit if he keeps making dinner jackets like these. When it was all said and done Mr. Bastian had only strengthened his case as America's ambassador to fashion. You can see the entire collection, and make your own call, over at GQ.
[Proof that it all starts with a swatch.]
[The "Antonio" short (also in a pant version), featuring a full front seam and front pockets.]
[Let's talk about cargos. Just kidding. I think I've done that enough recently.]