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There hasn't been a designer or a company that addresses the whole lifestyle of American men since Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren. New, exciting designers like Tom Ford take inspiration from their own sartorial needs rather than an idealized fantasy of what they should be wearing.
The ultimate insider, Michael Bastian began his career in the buying program at the now defunct department-store chain Abraham & Straus and held high-level positions at Sotheby's and Polo Ralph Lauren before becoming the men's fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman in 2000. It was while scouring the fashion capitals of Paris and Milan for product worthy of the retail mecca that Bastian realized there was a niche in the market that he could fill. "We would do a shopping list of things we could never findperfect slim khakis, a perfect V-neck sweaterwith American style but done at
a luxury level," he says, naming the basics for which he and his style-minded friends had always searched but inevitably came home without.
"We found ourselves caught between the European designer world of Dolce & Gabbana, Etro and Dior and luxury labels like Loro Piana and Kiton. Where do you go when none of those feels right?" he asks.
His resulting collection is a tight lineup of fashion classics, including chinos, oxford-cloth button-down shirts and tuxedos. "They are clothes you can wear every day, made by Italian technicians," says Bastian, 42. The looks are traditional and spare, without the flash many big labels flaunt. "It's for a guy who is more introspective. It's insider-y, with no logos," he says. Indeed, any extraneous details are for the wearer only: sweaters are stitched with reverse-written messages like "Kiss me," and spring's tailored suits are lined in bikini-bright orange.