Michael Bastian‘s Spring show was scheduled for high noon. High tea would’ve been more apropos, but there’s no room to wriggle on the New York calendar. Some designers might’ve blushed to put so much flesh on display before brunch, but not Bastian.
There’s always been an erotic undercurrent to his shows, but for Spring he shot it to the fore. “People try to pigeonhole me as preppy,” he said backstage after the show. “I don’t feel like I’m preppy at all. There’s a base of that, but there’s a base of that in any American menswear designer.
The two poles of American menswear are Ralph Lauren as the superego and Calvin Klein as the id—and I want to start going more toward the id. This felt like a big step in scraping preppy off. You talk about American heritage; one of our biggest heritages is sex. I don’t feel like that’s been out there enough.”
Id, he did. Bastian had begun the collection in homage to Helen Frankenthaler, whose watery colors inspired the palette, but the death of Donna Summer, disco queen and gay icon, rerouted his course.
Mid-show, one of his thick-thighed avatars was sauntering out to “Love to Love You, Baby” in a glittery Donna Summer ’81 (“Summer Is Back!”) T-shirt. The scene Bastian had set was a Fire Island pool house, where, he said, “there’s that feeling that you wouldn’t rather be any other place.”
The show’s success was that you believed he wouldn’t. This was Bastian reveling in Bastian-ness. These Adonises, unrepentant in their swagger: He loves to love them, baby. To dress them, too. The Bastian codes are well established, and they don’t veer far from season to season. Here as ever were linen suits, vintage-y short shorts, polos, great knits.
There’ll be plenty to buy. But the achievement of this show was Bastian’s embrace of his own fantasy without apology. Even in a day when sexuality and equality is an increasingly visible political issue, there’s a reticence to speak openly about it in men’s fashion for fear of spooking “normal” guys, “real” guys.
NOAH MILLS (WHILHELMINA)
Facing it head on is, in its campy way, brave, even if Bastian dismisses that notion. “The whole conversation, Is it straight? Is it gay? I can’t tell who is what any longer,” he said. “I can’t tell what country anyone’s from, I can’t tell anything. People like things that make them feel sexy—that’s the secret. If something makes you feel better about yourself, you’ll pull out your credit card.” There’s a utopian vision for you. Fabulous.