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20 Questions: Brooks Brothers’ Michael Bastian

Brooks Brothers is the original authority on American style. With a rich 200-year heritage, the brand has an impressive history that includes being the first ready-to-wear fashion emporium in the States, dressing almost every single president, and offering a timeless heritage style that is so iconic it’s simply called the ‘Brooks Brothers look’.


Earlier this year, it was announced that New York designer Michael Bastian was taking over the creative reins at the label. With a career including a position at another iconic brand, Tiffany & Co., along with a role as Menswear Fashion Director at Bergdorf Goodman, and his own eponymous label — which won the CFDA Menswear Designer of the Year award in 2011 — Bastian brings a wealth of experience (and impeccable style) to the table.


Here, Michael talks to The Style Sheet about everything from returning Brooks Brothers to its roots to why he’s ready to start dressing up again.


1. Congratulations on your new(ish) role as Creative Director at Brooks Brothers! What do you love most about the brand?

Thank you! It’s an exciting moment. I love how consistent Brooks Brothers has been through the years. Even though much has changed, the brand continues to be true to its DNA — the destination for classic American style.


2. How would you describe the direction you're moving the brand towards? 

As a start, I'm adding back all the iconic Brooks Brothers pieces to the collection. I believe that our customers should always walk to our stores and find all the Brooks Brothers classics — if you’re a woman, the classic twin set and if you’re a man, the tennis sweaters, the grey flannel suits, chinos... Also, a big part of my vision for the brand is to expand sportswear. The brand is naturally thought of for career-wear, but also want to highlight the other more casual aspects of the Brooks Brothers lifestyle.

3 men wearing contemporary suits from Brooks Brothers
Brooks Brothers is known for its assortment of expertly crafted suits

3. Where are you at the moment?

I’m sitting in my office in Times Square at the Brooks Brothers New York City HQ.


4. What's the first thing you do every morning?

I turn on the coffee maker!


5. Who do you think are the three most stylish men in history?

I have always admired Steve McQueen, Gianni Agnelli and John F Kennedy Jr. I always thought JFK Jr had the most personal style — he truly embraced the sexy American style.


6. How would you recommend styling Brooks Brothers’ new cashmere tracksuit?

I think you could certainly wear it together, but it's more interesting if you break the cashmere tracksuit apart. Maybe wear the hoodie with a jacket, chinos and sneakers. I’d pair the bottom with a flannel shirt, loafers and a parka if I'm running out the door in the morning. It’s also perfect if you just want to lounge at home.


7. You've been wildly successful in the menswear industry and have a CFDA Menswear Designer of the Year award under your belt. What does it take to be a successful menswear designer?

I think you need to infuse yourself into the customer’s head. It’s usually easy to design menswear if you’re a guy because you can put yourself in the customer’s shoes and make a product that you yourself are looking for. But that might not always be the reality, sometimes you might work for a brand that's a little out of your comfort zone, and you must create this mythical customer that will get you through the job. I consider myself very lucky as I’m the Brooks Brothers customer, so I'm designing everything I love.


8. What defines a perfect Oxford shirt?

The number one thing is the weight of the fabric. It should be 100 per cent cotton, very dense and heavy — also, the roll of the collar, which was a famous Brooks Brothers invention and is very recognisable.

A man with a skateboard wearing a contemporary look from Brooks Brothers
Brooks Brothers’ signature fresh take on heritage style

9. What’s the most understated accessory for men? 

A wedding ring.


10. Do you have any interior design influences? 

The decorator Billy Baldwin. All the apartments he designed were quintessential New York, in my opinion. They’re still modern and very well put together.


11. What's your favourite object in your home and why?

There's a painting in my living room that my mother gave me when I was a freshman in college. I dragged it around with me for years until I finally found a place in my home.


12. What Brooks Brothers pieces are you wearing on high rotation now?

I’m wearing a couple of things — the long-sleeve slim-fit polo, which is a little dressier than a regular polo shirt. Also, the Madras shirt and the ladybug embroidered shorts — they were some of the first things I designed at Brooks Brothers.


13. How has getting dressed for you changed in the past year?

I think after a year of lockdown, all I want to do is dress up again. I keep thinking of items that I wasn’t craving while chilling at home that I want to buy now. A grey flannel pant and a new parka are definitely on the list.


14. What do you love most about New York?

I love the diversity. People always say that New York is only for the rich, but I think that’s not true. I came to New York with big ambitions and no money, but I feel like the city took care of me. You can do a lot of things without money here like visiting museums and parks, and beaches during the summer.


15. What are the three pieces every man should have in his wardrobe?

Navy cashmere crew-neck sweater, red and white Bengal striped shirt, and a pair of five-pocket corduroys.

Brooks Brothers Creative Director Michael Bastian
Brooks Brothers Creative Director Michael Bastian

16. What else is influencing your design?

This Fall, there’s a heavy equestrian theme. There are two main influences — the very preppy East Coast and New England spirit and a great story of one of the Brooks Brothers’ grandsons who owned a horse ranch in Wyoming.


17. Who would you most like to see wearing Brooks Brothers?

I would love to dress President Biden. He does already wear Brooks Brothers, but it would be amazing to create a custom suit for him someday.


18. What do you wish you knew about style when you were 16?

I wish I knew that you didn’t have to change your look to go with a trend. I've always been very preppy, but I would try to morph into a different style to fit in when I was younger. The older I became, the more I realised that I shouldn't have to change my whole persona just to blend in.


19. What would you most like to change about the way men get dressed?

I don't want to change anyone, honestly. I think everyone should be able to express themselves. I just want to make sure the Brooks Brothers customers get what they need.


20. What about your career makes you the proudest?

It’s not so much about pride and more about astonishment! My career took so many turns, yet I ended up in the place that I always wanted to be. I still can't believe that I’m at Brooks Brothers — it’s something that I’d always dreamt about.

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