Creative In Conversation: Michael Bastian of Brooks Brothers


A luxury brand, Brooks Brothers was founded in Manhattan in 1818 and has become synonymous with American style for the whole family. And it’s an aesthetic that has worked, because impressively the brand holds the distinction of being America’s oldest continuously operating clothing brand. This is not an easy task.

Offering collections for men, women and kids, expect a contemporary take on the classics – think of everything from dress shirts and cable knits, corduroy pants, pleated skirts and twill two-piece. For those special occasions, they will also provide you with a quintessential tuxedo.

The man at the head of creation? Well, it’s Michael Bastian, an award-winning American designer who has held leadership positions at Bergdorf Goodman as Director of Menswear and has worked with leading brands such as GANT and UNIQLO. He also launched his namesake premium menswear brand in 2005, which earned him the CFDA Menswear Designer of the Year award in 2011, and in 2016 he founded a more accessible contemporary line.

Michael Bastian, Creative Director of Brooks Brothers, shares his story, what luxury means to him and the cornerstones of this heritage label.

Felicity Carter: What is your earliest fashion memory?

Michael Bastian: My first fashion memory was in kindergarten. I vividly remember a kid in my class wearing some sort of cowboy outfit with a bandana attached, and I became obsessed – begging my mom all the time until she gave in and got me the same outfit. It was really my first step into this world.

FC: How would you sum up the aesthetics of Brooks Brothers?

MB: Brooks Brothers is and always should be the definitive source of classic American style. It’s a brand you can count on for all the basics like perfect polo shirts, navy blazers, shetland jumpers, chinos, OCBDs and so on. The Brooks Brothers aesthetic is pretty much timeless, and while we don’t see ourselves as a trendy brand, we’ve been the source of many trends and innovations over the past two hundred years. No other brand has the depth of history that Brooks Brothers has, and that should always be respected.

FC: What is luxury for you?

MB: Personally, I think luxury is more about experiences and feelings than specific things. It can include quality and rarity, of course, but it can also relate to intangibles like time – not wasting time or finding more always feels quite luxurious to me. What I’m sure is luxury isn’t the same as expensive. I remember someone who once said: “The greatest luxury in the world is to be able to read while lying on the grass on a summer day”. It seems very hard to beat.

FC: Who is your client?

MB: I think our client is someone who appreciates classic American style and real quality. The brand definitely has its super fans who wear pretty much nothing but Brooks Brothers and consider us much more than a store – we are truly part of their life, of their history. But we also attract customers who are looking for high quality staples in their wardrobe, such as cashmere turtlenecks, flannel suits and more casual items. We will always be a destination for tailored clothing and evening wear, but sportswear is becoming more and more important to the brand. It’s just a natural reaction to the way people dress for work these days. Basically there is room in everyone’s closet for something from Brooks Brothers.

FC: What are the cornerstones of Brooks Brothers?

MB: As the oldest clothing retailer in the country, there are certain items our customers expect to always find in our stores and on the web like the OCBD, tennis sweaters, classic pea coat, boxer shorts. , twin sets – the list goes on and on. It’s a big part of my job to make sure these items are still present and as perfect or true to the original as I can get them. But on top of that, it is still just as important to make sure that the assortment is always interesting and relevant. There is also a lot of talk about the importance of optimism in the collection.

FC: What’s on your current mood board?

MB: We’re about to launch our Spring / Summer 22, and my moodboard is filled with images from two very different American islands: Nantucket, where I spend a lot of time, and Palm Beach. These two places have some similarities but also very different energies. I love that Nantucket is more laid back, washed out, and a bit undone, and that Palm Beach is more colorful, put together, and laid out. Two American islands, two very cool but distinct atmospheres which are very Brooks Brothers.

FC: Tell us about the process?

MB: Inspiration can come from so many places, like photos, movies, the street – things that I remember and how I imagined. Everything is very fluid. We also browse the archives a lot here at Brooks Brothers – I’m always surprised at how trendy the brand has always been, but in its own way.

FC: Currently, what are your favorite pieces and how do you wear them?

MB: My favorite piece right now is the navy shetland sweater with horses embroidered all over and corduroy elbows from Fall’21 — my first collection for Brooks Brothers. It was inspired by the earliest photographic studies of moving animals by Eadweard Muybridge – particularly his documentation of horse locomotion. I’m definitely my harshest reviewer, but I can’t think of anything I would change about this sweater, which doesn’t always happen.

FC: What is the best advice you have received regarding management of the industry?

MB: That’s a great question. The best advice I’ve ever been given is that there is nothing wrong with personalizing what we do as designers. If you personally want an item or feel that something is missing from your wardrobe, you can be sure that other people are looking for it as well. There is a myth that we all design for an ideal mystery shopper when in reality if we all design the product that we wanted to wear on our own we would be much more successful in our jobs.

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