Ten years is a long time in menswear. In fact, history shows a decade’s more than enough time for a new brand on the block – no matter the heights it first reached – to slip through the cracks. Sure, emerging designers’ first headlines herald them as the new messiahs of men’s fashion, but more often than not it’s a matter of months before they’re languishing at the bottom of a bargain basement.
Not so GQ’s Best New Menswear Designers in America. Selected annually by the style bible’s bigwigs, GQ’s BNMDAs are anything but flash-in-the-pan – just look at last year’s crop, including David Hart and Stampd, whose limited-edition collections for Gap were near instant sell-outs.
This year, to mark ten years of ordaining America’s Best New Menswear Designers (and five years of Gap x GQ BNMDA collections flying off the shelves) the BNMDA project has returned to its roots, for the first time welcoming back some of its previous winners. Breakout talent then, big names now, the decennial crop includes Michael Bastian, Saturdays NYC, John Elliott and Steven Alan – all of whom have partnered with all-American retailer Gap for what’s set to be another flyaway collection.
“We wanted to make the 10th anniversary of this program feel like its own declaration, a snapshot of the state of American fashion,” said GQ editor-in-chief Jim Nelson of 2016’s collaboration. “We also wanted to make the clothes instantly wearable, easily attainable, and flat-out covetable. With these four exciting designers, and with Gap’s exceptional partnership, I think we hit the sweet spot.”
Meet the designers (still) making it big:
New York might’ve seen its fair share of menswear designers flounder, but king of prep Michael Bastian has stayed the course. The secret? Giving men clothes they can actually wear.
Starting out in 2006, Bastian never made bones about the fact that his clothes weren’t out-and-out revolutionary, but remixes of menswear classics instead: think Ivy League grad meets Wall Street stockbroker meets – and plays a game of baseball with – upstate dad. It’s proved a winning formula for legions of American men not served by streetwear, earning Bastian two BNMDA wins (and that’s not even including this one).
The New York-born designer’s BNMDA capsule follows suit: a mash-up of office-ready smart-casual staples and activewear that skews outdoorsy rather than athleisure. There’s a blazer and duffle bag, but distressed jeans, joggers and a flannel shirt too – the kind of stuff that might not buck trends, but is anything but boring.
Founded by Morgan Collett, Colin Tunstall and Josh Rosen, Saturdays NYC (née Saturdays Surf NYC) was – before it became the global lifestyle brand it is today – just a small retailer nestled in New York’s Soho.
A clothes store-cum-coffee shop, the 2009-established brand’s offering took its cue from surfing, a pastime beloved of all three of its founders. Not, you’ll be glad to know, in a literal acid brights and floral Havaianas kind of way, but more in how it channels surfing’s achingly cool off-duty vibe.
Today, they’ve dropped the ‘Surf’, but the sentiment’s still there. The brand’s BNMDA range is everything you need for a look-twice low-key look (yup, it’s a thing), including monochrome basics offset by graphic tees, sweats, outerwear and accessories. All of which looks as good in Manhattan as Montauk.
LA designer John Elliott is a lot of the reason you’re probably wearing sweatpants right now. An early proponent of athleisure, Elliott’s success is rooted in his ability to speak to the way men want to dress today – all the clean lines and comfort, none of the bells and whistles.
Although technically the newb of the BNMDA bunch (making the GQ BNMDA list for the first time just two years ago), Elliott’s 2016 capsule collection is one of the strongest: full of the minimal wardrobe basics he made his name on, as well as a bomber jacket that – despite the military stalwart’s current ubiquity – has us falling hard for it all over again.
Back in 1994, Steven Alan opened a store on Manhattan’s Wooster Street to sell other people’s clothes, but ended up stocking his own: first shirts, then everything else.
Today, eight years after he was first inducted into GQ’s BNMDA club, Alan’s brand comprises not only those reverse seam button-down shirts that have become his signature, but denim, outerwear, swim shorts and sunglasses too.
His BNMDA capsule is similarly comprehensive, packed full of versatile autumn/winter pieces your wardrobe needs, including a Donegal tweed coat, a navy blue corduroy blazer and, of course, the iconic Steven Alan shirt.
The Gap x GQ Best New Menswear Designers in America collection is available online and in select Gap stores including – among others – its Oxford Street flagship and Oxford Circus stores in London and 185 Buchanan Street, Glasgow. Prices start from £19.95.