Modern Ivy: Gant’s creative director Christopher Bastin is reinterpreting the classics.
Created in New Haven, Conn. in 1949, Gant is a true heritage brand, known for button-down collars. Today, Gant is a full lifestyle collection selling to retailers like Nordstrom, Unionmade and Scoop. In 2009, Christopher Bastin joined Gant as head of design, helping the brand launch Gant Rugger for spring 2010. Recently promoted to creative director for Gant, Bastin is injecting some of his modern design influence into the main line.
How can a brand stand out in a crowded contemporary market?
It’s a lot about storytelling—and [with our rich history] we don’t have to make stuff up. We’re a confident brand that pays attention to our style rather than fast fashion and quick trends. With the increasing consumer interest in high quality, we stand out by staying true to who we are.
How do Gant and Gant Rugger differ?
We look at Gant Rugger as the little brother to Gant. It’s where we can push the envelope a bit more, play around and not worry about what sold last season. The price point is similar to Gant, but when it comes to distribution, we keep Gant Rugger on a very short leash. We’d rather wait for the best stores than sell to the second best. (Rugger is currently sold at Nordstrom, Saks and Barneys.) Gant is the mothership and needs to have a wider lens, but it’s always rooted in our New England heritage and American sportswear.
Where do you think men’s fashion is headed?
American sportswear is definitely setting the tone in terms of the classic wardrobe staples. But look at Pitti for instance: not much has changed over the past two to three years, which is actually kind of nice because I think men dress well today.
What can we expect for spring 2015?
I love the kick-back attitude in L.A. and wanted to merge that with our traditional East Coast look. I’m really excited about throwing those two worlds together. It’s kind of a washed-out pastel color card. We’re also working on a nautical story that will take guys from L.A. to Carmel Beach on this old wooden sailing boat. Think safari merged with “Ship Ahoy.” It’s based on a vintage Gant ad from the late-’70s that kills it on so many levels.
Do you have a role model or a mentor?
I’ve had many. From Mats at Solo who taught me everything there is to know about denim, to Jonny Johansson at Acne who showed me what real creativity and drive are all about, to the people I’ve worked closely with at Gant; a lot of them are younger and less experienced than I am. The day you stop listening to new ideas and younger talent, you’re lost. Nothing was better before.
What did you learn from launching Gant Rugger?
That it’s hard work: you can’t skip that part. And that working for brands that you love makes it a lot easier in the long run. Creating Gant Rugger taught me to look at things from a larger perspective than just the garment and collections. I’ve learned that injecting emotions and talking to people in an honest way through style works.
You curate Gant’s historical archive. What does that entail?
We’re about to catalog and document it all in the next year. So far it’s mostly entailed spending more time on EBay, in thrift stores and with vintage dealers than with my family, and completely nerding out over details about our history. But once we display it to the world…man, there is so much good stuff in there.
What’s the one thing you can’t leave your house without?
A vintage Rolex, a splash from the last bottle on earth of Velviona from Helmut Lang and a credit card.