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2013 November 8

Michael Bastian Discusses His Ambitious First Store

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Michael Bastian Michael Bastian
Evan Joseph
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(New York) A pile of hay? A wax room? Looks like BOFFO is at it again with another retail installation in Manhattan. This time Michael Bastian has teamed with Antonio Torres and Michael Loverich of Bittertang to create a space at the cavernous SuperPier (15th Street in Hudson River Park) for his first pop-up shop that doubles as a public art spectacle. Bastian talked us through this innovative undertaking that's only open until November 21st and can't be missed.
BY EDDIE ROCHE   

Why did you decide to open up your first store this way?
This pop-up was really an architectural competition, so it was equally about the architecture as it was about us and our clothes. It gave us a lot of freedom to experiment since it's only up for three weeks and it was only connected to one season. It was not like when you are designing a shop you have to think will this work for Spring, Fall, Holiday and all the seasons, this is a one shot deal. This allowed us to experiment a lot more than we usually would, which was really fun!

How would you describe the space?
The physical space itself is actually two shipping containers smashed together. When we were talking to the architect, the inspiration was about Andrew Wyeth paintings and a lonely, darker idea of Maine and American Gothic. They kind of took a lot of that imagery and ran with it in really interesting ways. At one point, I talked about walking into a room of a Maine farmhouses which smelled of beeswax furniture polish. They took that idea of beeswax, and smells and created beeswax walls when you first walk in. In a way, it feels like glowing amber beehive. In the back, all of the ceilings are slanted, so it feels like you're in an attic. 

Wow!
The real shop is in the back; that's where all the clothes are. It's all black with red mirrors, to reflect this idea of red-winged black birds, which we had in the collection. It was just really fun giving our inspirations and then seeing where they went with it, which was a lot further then we even went.

There’s even hay!
The whole structure is kind of covered in a 20-foot mound of hay. It's not just a big blob of hay; it's in the shape of one of a building, so there's some thought behind tha, too! 

Did you know anything about the Super Pier?
I didn’t know anything, except that when you're on the Westside Highway, you drive by this enormous pier. The Super Pier is going to undergo a huge transformation by 2015. We're kind of the last thing before they shut down to totally transform it into a big shopping complex and event space. It is kind of amazing, it is enormous, and it shoots 80 feet out into the Hudson. It is so vast, there are even underground levels underneath. What they have planned is going to be amazing! 

Is it heated?
We have space heaters, but in general, the place is not heated.

What was it like working with Bittertang as the architects?
It was amazing! They're two young guys that are very experimental. They talk about things like the touch and the smell. They even had a project where people licked the walls! They are approaching architecture in a completely new and different way, which was really interesting for us!

Is opening up a year-round boutique in your plans?
Yes! That's actually our main goal at the moment. We want to open up our first store in New York!

What areas are you considering?
We haven’t really picked a neighborhood yet. There are a lot of interesting neighborhoods now, and a lot of up-and-coming neighborhoods. Even the neighborhoods that you consider established are getting a new life. The Upper East Side is pretty interesting at the moment. If you walk around there during the weekend around Madison and Fifth Avenues in the 60's and 70's, it's pretty amazing what's going on. Bleecker would be amazing, but there's not that much space left. The streets shooting off of Bleecker might suddenly spark a life. I live right around there. There's this one little bit of Christopher Street between 6th Avenue and 7th Avenue, which is one of my favorite blocks. To me it always feels like Boston or something, I could see doing something there!

Tell us a little about your eBay collaboration! how did this come about?
eBay and the CFDA approached us, it was actually a really fun project, unlike anything we’ve ever done. We've designed a USB charger chord that has two magnets on the end and you can use it as a bracelet and keep it on your wrist if you're running around. It's also a phone charger.

How did you come up with the design?
We submitted around 14 different designs. It had to be something that would work on 1-inch-wide space. We submitted patterns and words. We're known for words and phrases in clothes, so we went back to some of our pieces and looked at some of the phrases that we used. They liked one that said ‘Omnia Causa Fiunt’, which is Latin for ‘everything happens for a reason’. 

You're always up to a million things. What are you up to now?
In a couple of days, I go to London for an event with Matches and we're going to meet a couple of our London accounts. Then I go to Italy to work on Fall 2014. I have to look at some samples. It's a busy couple of weeks. 

Where will you be for Thanksgiving?
At the moment, I think I’m going to be in Asia somewhere. 

Will you eat turkey?
I don’t know if they have turkey in Shanghai. 

Our GALLERY has images of the project. 




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