Michael Bastian revisits 1980s preppy Boston with new collection

Bastian’s looks are inspired by his years at Babson College, where he graduated in 1987.

NEW YORK - He describes the collection of skinny ties, collegiate jackets, and two-tone sunglasses as his “big sloppy Valentine to Boston.’’ Designer Michael Bastian, who graduated from Babson College in 1987, designed his entire Fall/Winter 2012 line around his memories of Boston from the 1980s. He presented the collection yesterday at Fashion Week.

“This is my most personal season to date,’’ the designer said. “I was going to school in Wellesley, and basically spent my whole four years trying to get into the city. I was riding the T back and forth. I really just fell in love with that town.’’

Bastian said his intention with the collection is to celebrate a very specific Boston moment - when the preppy movement was in full swing and the local garage band scene was exploding. Internationally, a mod culture revival was burgeoning - think tight suits, skinny ties, and motor scooters - through the popularity of ska bands such as the English Beat and the Specials.

Designer Michael Bastian presented his Fall/Winter 2012 collection recently in New York.

“There was really just this great energy going on with the music,’’ he says. “A lot of my friends got into the mod scene, so I got pulled in, too.’’

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The collection even includes T-shirts with faux Boston businesses, such as the fictitious South End Boxing Club.

“Boston’s such a unique city,’’ Bastian says. “I feel like 50 percent of its DNA turns over every semester. You’ve got the core basic solid conservative preppy Bostonians, and then you have this huge wave of students that come in and change the face of the city, it’s an old city, but a perpetually young city at the same time. When you put those two together, they weirdly coexist.’’

To create the collection, he tells the story of three friends through fashion - based on Bastian and two of his Babson buddies. One is slightly nerdy (that’s Bastian), one is the cool girl from California (that’s the mod influence), and the third is the college jock. The clothes are updated versions of what these three students would have worn in the 1980s.

“I know it works because I lived it,’’ he says. “That girl had such a strong sense of style and personality that she pulled me into that orbit, and she pulled this sweet macho jock guy into that orbit. She made him wear black penny loafers and skinny jeans and cut his hair. Then we would all go out. So I knew this was realistic, at least for its time.’’


It’s not only Bastian looking to colleges and Boston for inspiration. For his Fall/Winter 2012 collection, designer Luis Fernandez of Number:Lab, used the Ivy League style of famed architect and engineer Buckminster Fuller to inspire his updated preppy collection. Fuller graduated from Milton Academy and then attended Harvard. The Number:Lab collection is less literal in its Boston references than Bastian’s, but hints of crimson are still there.

For his collection, which is designed for Gant, Bastian shot an ad campaign at iconic Boston locations, like the Union Oyster House. It was perfect for the current preppy trend raging in menswear.

“Preppy never goes away,’’ he says. “It just has its moment every 15 years, and then it goes back underground. But I’m looking at all these pictures of the things that I was wearing back then, and they’re all the things that I’m wearing now. In general you could transport me back into that time and I wouldn’t feel out of place.’’

Christopher Muther can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther.