“I never went to design school and was driven by a bottomless curiosity and obsession with clothing rather than being a 'fashion kid',” says Christopher Bastin, GANT’s Creative Director. His first step into the fashion world was a stroke of luck. “I got a job selling denim at this really cool store called SOLO back in the day and got hooked on vintage denim,” recalls Bastin, reminiscing about the catalyst that ignited his enduring love affair with fashion. This experience led to a position at H&M’s headquarters, followed by stints at ACNE and Whyred. Eventually, his journey brought him to GANT, where he initially made his mark as a shirt designer, and eventually ascended to his current role as Creative Director. “Doing things at a whole new level was really scary at first, and it still is. It really keeps you on your toes,” he says.
When exploring Bastin's creative vision and aesthetic, one discovers a captivating blend. “I particularly enjoy the storytelling aspect and the brand elements of my job, so that’s something I really embrace and nurture,” he reveals.
NM: How would you describe your creative vision and aesthetic as a creative director? What sets it apart from other designers or brands?
Christopher Bastin: There are a ton of senior designers who are better than me at designing fashion per se, but being a total nerd about American sportswear and GANT’s history provides a tool that goes deeper than just seasonal trends. It’s an amazing tool to have, this obsession of mine. It also helps being one of the original brands who helped shape Ivy and Preppy.
NM: You mentioned in one of your interviews that you grew up having a passion for music and even had your own band at some point. If you could collaborate with any musician or band to create a collection inspired by their music, who would it be and why?
Christopher Bastin: We did two gigs in total and both sucked so I wouldn’t put too much into it, but I do love music and in a different universe I would have loved to produce and write music as well. I have to confess it would be pretty amazing to dress Harry Styles. The collaboration we did with St Vincent was a dream gig, she really brings it. And we’re dressing Benjamin Ingrosso and his entire band for the tour he is currently on, which is really cool. He’s a musical genius who will conquer the world.
NM: Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind GANT's touring archive exhibition? What motivated the brand to showcase its 70-year brand history in this comprehensive manner?
Christopher Bastin: I’ve been wanting to do this for like 10 years, it was time. I love that we’re being democratic about our archive, opening it up on display to the public. The concept of having a local curator for each city brings a little je ne sais quoi to each exhibition which is really nice. The foundation is the same in all cities, but a part of it comes through the curator’s eyes and gets a different point of view. We started off in New York in our brand new space, our first GANT Studio, located in the heart of Nolita where the Archive Exhibition was curated by Throwing Fits. It then traveled to London and Paris where the local exhibition was respectively curated by denim specialist Samuel Trotman, aka Samutaro, and Manuel Schenck, an icon within the local skateboarding scene. The latest iteration of the Archive Exhibition recently took place in the Studio space in our new Stockholm flagship store, with Jason Jules (Garmsville) as curator.
NM: In what ways does the exhibition reflect GANT's commitment to preserving and celebrating its heritage while embracing innovation and progress? How does this balance between tradition and modernity inform the brand's overall philosophy?
Christopher Bastin: Having a legacy comes with a certain amount of responsibility. There aren’t that many brands still around who were there when American sportswear was born. It’s GANT, J Press and Brooks Brothers who are still standing. It’s looking back and knowing where you came from that makes it possible to move forward. We were always a very progressive brand back in the 1950s and 1960s, and I want us to keep evolving. To be the future of American sportswear.
NM: If you could only have one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it look like?
Christopher Bastin: A GANT Oxford button-down shirt, washed out worn in, faded out 501’s, a pair of great sneakers or loafers and a vintage Rolex. Throw a club blazer and a good wool coat in for the winter season.
NM: How do you strike a balance between pushing creative boundaries and meeting the commercial demands of the fashion industry? How does this balance influence your decision-making process?
Christopher Bastin: Ah, the balance…first of all, I’m really happy we’re not a public company with a quarterly pressure to deliver to shareholders, the pressure today on a lot of creatives is getting out of hand, it becomes a commodity in itself. I’m not sure it’s a sustainable approach. Of course we have a huge responsibility to our owners to grow and develop the brand both short and long term but we can play a different game: the long game. Knowing your consumer is everything, while you have to dare to push the envelope enough to make a change and stay relevant, and therein lies the balance. But it’s a cyclic movement, not a seasonal thing. It might be holding off a season to push a certain silhouette, while I personally would have loved to have it in stores yesterday, long term it’s better to wait until the early majority has caught up and you can actually make a business case out of it. Merchandising is a fine art. I’m still learning every day.
NM: Can you share some insights into your creative process? How do you approach the concept development and design phases when creating a new collection?
Christopher Bastin: Procrastination is my best friend and my worst enemy. With the years you learn to trust your instincts and especially once you know the brand as well as I do. It might be something I listen to, a certain mood, an image that catches my eye, someone with a unique style. Sometimes I have a super clear idea from the start, then it’s easy. Sometimes it takes throwing five ideas in the trash and verifying my sanity with my design team before I’m even convinced I have an idea at all. Anxiety is one hell of a force.
NM: How would you describe GANT's latest collection?
Christopher Bastin: Pre-Fall 23 is kind of an homage to the movie The Graduate, a casual yet iconic wardrobe. The club blazer, the varsity jacket, leather blouson jackets for women, raw silk ties, perfect shirts, all that good stuff. It’s also the season we bring back our original GANT crest logo that was designed in 1985 in NYC. Laid-back and sexy at the same time.
NM: What emotions or feelings do you hope to evoke in people when they see or wear your latest collection?
Christopher Bastin: Emotions are important, and I think we can make the consumer feel both savvy and effortlessly cool when stepping out of the store.
NM: Are there any specific messages or statements that you aim to convey through your latest collection? How did you incorporate these ideas into the design process.
Christopher Bastin: That good style is timeless, and that GANT truly is a force to be reckoned with. It’s in the subtle details, the cut, the wash, the fabric. There’s been a lot of talk about quiet luxury, and for a good reason. Prep is back, the way it’s supposed to be: effortless, a bit chic and extremely wearable.
NM: Can you talk about any upcoming collaborations or exciting projects GANT is working on? What can we expect to see in the near future?
Christopher Bastin: We just opened our brand new flagship store in Stockholm which we worked on for over two years, and we’re very proud of it. We partnered with New York-based design Snarkitecture to reimagine the space where interior details are a reference to our heritage and Ivy League legacy. A must-see destination in Stockholm if you ask me. In our GANT Studio (our second GANT Studio and a new multifunctional concept that will serve as a creative hub and bring the community together), we will keep on hosting inspiring and exciting activations throughout the year.