Michael Bastian for VGL

Michael Bastian for VGL

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Photographed  American luxury Menswear Designer Michael Bastian for Very Good Light.

Scroll down to learn more about the charming designer:

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“More guys should use a makeup brush,” says Michael Bastian, the New York menswear designer, defiantly.

We’re hanging out in his West Village apartment in his charming abode, which is decorated with quirky art pieces he’s collected over the years. On one wall sits a painting of a feckless young man staring off into the distance, a piece Michael found on the sidewalk one day. On another, there are dozens of framed paintings and photographs that he’s collected over the years. The decor, one would say, is perfectly New York.

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In his quaint bathroom – which is completely spotless, btw – he’s applying a product called Mally onto his face. He stares into his mirror, his hand swirling with a makeup brush to his pores. “I don’t understand why more men don’t use a brush, it’s like a paint brush, nothing unnatural about it,” he says. He tells me he discovered the wonder product while on a shoot for GQ. A makeup artist had been using it on his face to prep him for the shoot. Almost instantaneously, he saw a difference. “I was like, what is that and I need that now!”

Now in his early fifties, Michael, who’s the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s 2011 Menswear Designer of the Year award winner, is finding that he’s more confident than ever. That is, with or without that miraculous powder, Mally.

Growing up in Lyons, NY, a suburb between Rochester and Syracuse, he says he was always dreaming about a bigger life in the city.

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“At 13, I was one of those kids how had a subscription to GQ,” he says. “I lived in my own head.” Though he had dreams of fashion, it was during this time when he found he was “completely a super nerd.” In college, has says, he still wasn’t self-assured.

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Halston Z 14 conjures pleasant memories, Michael says, of the early 80’s. It was well before he ever stepped foot in the city, a time when Ronald Reagan was still president. “I wanted to be someone,” he remembers saying. “I want to be that cool guy who was in New York City, going out every night, living that lifestyle.”

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Years later, he moved to New York City and soon enough found himself living that life. He worked at Ralph Lauren in the home department then at Tiffany in the table top division. Then, he made it to one of the top positions in the entire industry: fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman. It was there when he started to think about going off on his own.

“I thought I was going to start a chino line,” he says. “But then someone told me I had to go all in. I was just going to do this on the side while I was still working. I was designing the line and Brunello Cucinelli (an Italian menswear brand) offered to produce it. So I quit my job and my mom cried saying, ‘how can you be so reckless with your career?’” 

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It was at this point, where he started gaining personal confidence in himself. “In my 20’s I was insecure but it was in my 30’s I started to accept how I look. Some people peak in their teens, I peaked in my 40’s.” It’s in his 40’s when he started gaining weight, his “weird gray hairs” sprouting. “My grandfather had white hair,” he says. “He was a handsome guy with blue blue eyes and super tanned. His whole philosophy was the whiter the hair more tanned you had to be.” Which is why he says he loves the sun. “I know I’m doing something bad with the sun so have to make it up with lots of beauty and grooming products.”

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And after a successful brand and career, Michael says this about finding confidence: “Be aware that people peak at different ages,” he says. “Don’t think it’s all about the 20’s and that that will be your most gorgeous years. Some people are in the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 70’s. If you think you’re insecure, you’re not alone and better days will come. They did for me.”

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Words by David Yi

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