Michael Bastian looks to Japanese culture for menswear inspiration

NEW YORK --  Michael Bastian presented his fall and winter 2014 menswear collection at the Ruben Museum of Art here on Tuesday afternoon, a jewel-toned, Japanese-inspired range of pieces that was the perfect mix of upscale and whimsical.

The inspiration: “I’ve been traveling to Tokyo a lot lately,” Bastian told us backstage. “And I’ve also been noticing all those Japanese street-style photographers that gather outside places like [men’s show] Pitti Uomo.  In a way they’re really the world’s editors.” Bastian said the collection was recognition of all that comes out of Japan: “the funny stuff, the serious stuff and the beautiful stuff.”

The look: The resulting collection was filled with a grab bag of motifs culled from Japanese culture,  including bamboo camouflage prints on scarves, ribbed U-neck sweaters and  Mr. Kim for Michael Bastian bucket hats, a “lucky coin” theme that could be seen in an intarsia sweater design as well as in the actual coin-like metal discs knit into the yokes of other sweaters. There were also things like zip-front navy-blue cashmere track jackets with Mt. Fuji postcard designs on the back, a Samarai-inspired white trapunto-quilted sweatshirt and a windbreaker made from vintage embroidered kimono fabric.

There were light-hearted touches too, such as the intarsia sweater with a Godzilla-like fire-breathing monster (albeit one that looked more like the wind-up toy version than the cinematic city-stomping version). The monster also appeared on Stubbs & Wootton shoes (a longtime collaborator with the designer), the flame-belching creature embroidered on the left foot, a fire extinguisher on the right.


These thematic pieces were mixed in with more traditional menswear offerings -- three-piece suits in gray windowpane checks, navy blue double-breasted blazers and suits in Glen plaid. The color palette was rooted in menswear grays and blues with pops of purple, jade green, gold (including a standout gold silk brocade dinner jacket).

Of note: Among our favorite touches were the various versions of horsehair tassel belt-loop clips  and lapel pins (a collaboration with George Frost) that accessorized many of the looks throughout the runway show. They reminded us of the German “gamsbart” hat pins that have also been used to perk up an otherwise-unremarkable lapel.

The verdict: In the downstairs area of the Rubin Museum that served as the runway show’s backstage, a sign accompanying a prayer bead exhibit was topped with the bold-face words “Count Your Blessings,” which seemed an appropriate backdrop for a menswear designer who is not only able to find inspiration everywhere and anywhere but translates, filters and channels those inspirations into consistently covetable collections.



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