If Woody Allen, that quintessentially American auteur, can find success in France, why not Michael Bastian? The invitation to the designer’s Spring 2014 show was inscribed with the words “French men always break your heart,” and featured a sultry photograph of a man’s leg, bent, partially clad in a short—with a hand holding a cigarette resting on the knee. It was an image that could have been taken by Host P. Host, with a removed sexiness that was subverted and toyed with the moment Bastian's first model appeared on the runway.
And what a runway it was—the ballroom of the Pierre Hotel; a piano player, the chanteuse Alice Smith cooing her song “Cabaret Prelude” to an audience that featured menswear’s biggest names (without Hilfiger on the docket, Bastian and Billy Reid are really the only two major menswear shows this season; not that young Turks like Patrick Ervell, Tim Coppens, and N. Hoolywood won’t attract their fair share of industry heavies). This dramatic setting, too, was undercut by Bastian’s first look, which included pineapple print jeans in canvas. These were followed by bright shorts, cut well above the knee (including an adorable pair in the '70s basketball style), jaunty straw hats tipped to the side and his recognizable oxfords--some poking out from sweaters, others unbuttoned to the sternum.
If Bastian is entering the world of moody existentialists and tangos in Paris, he’s certainly doing it with a whole lot of joie de vie, or maybe American exuberance. But there’s a résistance here—Bastian hasn’t gone over the edge into the decorative or splurging sense of fun that his Brady-Bunch-in-Hawaii collection from 2012 sampled in the past. The fun, smart collection closed with a dinner jacket on top of a black dress chino: crisp and serious, but still emblazoned with a print, then brought back to formality with a white bow tie. It spoke to neither Riviera nor Edgartown exclusively, but following his leopard-print chinos and cargo-pocketed shorts, there was little question as to on which side of the Atlantic Mr. Bastian is still standing.
Photos: Dan Lecca