Since 2007, men’s magazine GQ has been handpicking outstanding American talent in fashion, awarding each member of the yearly class the distinction of “Best New Menswear Designer in America,” It takes a lot to make it onto the list; looking back through the selected individuals and labels from years past, the number of names that are now staples in the industry is staggering. Early picks include Helmut Lang, Band of Outsiders, Engineered Garments, and Robert Geller. Classes closer to the current year feature heavy hitters like Billy Reid, Patrik Ervell, Mark McNairy, and T by Alexander Wang.
The wide range of styles is also notable. Although many associate GQ with a certain aesthetic that pushes slim fits and more formal attire, BNMDA winners straddle many genres of fashion and price ranges. From suits to sweatpants and from budget brands to luxury labels, the award covers all bases.
This year marks BNMDA’s tenth anniversary, and GQ is celebrating by inviting back four of its most distinguished winners to design a capsule collection for Gap. For the past five years, the award and the casualwear brand have released collections featuring the classes’ stars, but this is the first time that multiple names have collaborated and that past winners have contributed.
The collection features 2007’s Michael Bastian, 2008’s Steven Alan, 2012’s Saturdays NYC, and 2014’s John Elliott. Bastian’s offerings demonstrate his ability to blend classic American sportswear with a polished vibe, clearly visible in his tweed blazer and chunky full zip cardigan. The selection of accessories is impressive as well; an embroidered canvas belt pairs perfectly with a navy and cream duffle bag, complete with vintage-inspired patches.
Steven Alan’s style is similar to Bastian’s but leans more towards subtlety. Classic work staples like wool coats and khakis appear mostly in understated colors, but the brand’s more playful side shows in its casual offerings like a red moleskin shirt jacket, a corduroy blazer, and a flannel that features a large windowpane pattern.
Saturdays NYC introduces some streetwear classics to the collection with its quilted nylon bomber jacket and tees featuring simple, geometric graphics in varying sizes. The use of different and modern fabrics keeps the otherwise traditional silhouettes interesting, like with a pair of Spandex and nylon shorts. Also notable is Saturdays’s inclusion of starkly contrasting white accents on black pieces, a striking and modern technique that demonstrates its versatility.
The most recent collaborator, John Elliott, kicked off a number of streetwear trends only a few years ago. The popularization of layered tees, curved hems, and side zips on tops was largely his doing, and those now-beloved details run wild in this capsule. Elliott’s penchant for subtle innovation can be seen in the sweatpants he has designed for Gap, the entire garment monochromatic but constructed of multiple angular panels. A flight jacket follows the same principle, done entirely in an unobtrusive gray but detailed with asymmetrical panels, slant pockets, and a zippered compartment on the sleeve.
All in all, the collection demonstrates the common thread that links all BNMDA winners together: wearability. Every piece in each of the four lines is the kind of garment that can fit in almost any wardrobe, either as an accent piece or as a basic staple. This is not to say that the designers have not taken any risks; they have done a fine job conveying their own distinct design philosophies. Since the collection is directed towards a mass-market audience, though, accessibility is key, and all four designers and labels have accomplished that goal. With such a well-done capsule, it is exciting to think about what the next 10 years of BNMDA will bring.
Have you heard of these designers before, or have you seen their clothes at Gap recently? Tell me about it here or on Twitter @BillChangNY