NEW YORK -- Michael Bastian showed his spring and summer 2014 menswear collection in the ballroom of the Pierre Hotel here on Wednesday afternoon, a fun, laid-back collection filled with pineapple prints and leopard spot camouflage that unspooled to the accompaniment of chanteuse Alice Smith and pianist Borahm Lee working the baby grand piano.
The setting and the soundtrack were hints at Bastian's inspiration for the season, which he shared backstage after the show. "It was all about Paris -- and French men and the sense of style that they have," he said. And, after a men's magazine editor pointed out that the collection was a 180-degree turn from the darker more somber feel of the fall and winter 2013 collection he sent down the runway last season, Bastian said that was a conscious effort. "I wanted to do something completely different," he added.
He elaborated in the show notes: "The inspiration," Bastian wrote, "initially came from observing the French guys in my life, as well as movies such as The Red Balloon, The Dreamers, and the classic movies of Jacques Tati. I also drew inspiration from the incredible spirit and joyfulness of the late American designer Patrick Kelly -- no one loved Paris more than he did. I often think the true essence of a place can only be reflected through the eyes and experiences of an outsider, and for me, Patrick's vision of Paris -- bright, romantic, frenetic, sexy and chic -- is the one that stays with me."
In a color palette that ranged from pineapple yellow and parrot green to navy blue, bordeaux purple and slate gray, and textures that ran the gamut from stonewashed linen, cotton/linen canvas and printed nylon to cashmere, suede and gauze shirting, Bastian's collection used, as its starting point, the event known as Paris Plages. For a month each summer, Parisians of a certain pinstripe, after toiling their summer days away in the office, decamp to the banks of the river (complete with sand and deckchairs) for what's essentially a Seine-side staycation. It proved the perfect way to showcase a mix of tropical/surfin' safari pieces alongside the collection's dressier – but still super-comfortable looking – pieces.
The former category included pieces like safari jackets, military jackets, cargo pants, sweatpants and swim trunks, and patterns like the leopard camo, which could be spotted (pun fully intended) on jackets, sweaters, surf trunks and belts and the pineapple print which adorned canvas jeans, cutoff shorts, bucket hats and slippers
In the latter category was a variety of sport coats, including double-breasted jackets, navy and red pinstripe single-breasted jackets, and a white, shawl collar dinner jacket. Button-down shirts were served up in both staid plaids and checks as well as whimsical allover prints that included flowers, boats and wine glasses. The beach-bound bankers were appropriately accessorized with leather bags and totes (courtesy of a Michael Bastian X Frank Clegg collaboration) over their shoulders and luxe-looking Audemars Piguet timepieces on their wrists.
Then there were a handful of pieces that just screamed plain "fun" in a universal language -- one intarsia sweater depicted parrots, for example, another a backgammon board. Some pieces were so stealth funny that patterns only popped into view when the models were mere inches away – like the paper clip pattern on shortsleeve shirts and bandanas and a seemingly serious dinner jacket that turned out to be allover printed with tiny medallions.
Bastian's usual collaborators were on board this season too; there was a veritable hat rack full of fedoras, boaters, porkpies -- even a biking cap emblazoned with the word "Paris" -- by Mr. Kim for Michael Bastian, and this season's Stubbs & Wootton partnership that included, in addition to the pineapple kicks, slippers festooned with embroidered cherries and parrot wings (on separate pairs of shoes, of course – putting them on the same shoes would be just plain silly).
The words "follow me" adorned a couple of pieces – we noticed it stitched in red under the back collar of a sport coat and across the front of a sweater – but, at this point, Bastian needn't ask us twice.
Even if we didn't have a clue where he was headed for spring 2014, we'd be right behind him all the way – simply because we know our wardrobe is going to look a whole lot better when we get there.