"What is the significance of this giant haystack?"
That was the perfectly reasonable question that a random gentleman asked nobody in particular as The Shophound was exiting Michael Bastian's pop-up shop at the SuperPier in Chelsea. We told him, "It's a store."
He looked at us blankly.
"If you go inside, they'll explain it, " we said as we walked away, knowing that we ourselves probably couldn't fully explain the odd, shipping container based structure that the design "farm" Bitterang created to display Bastian's uncharacteristically moody Fall 2013 collection. The team of Antonio Torres and Michael Loverich managed to build an even darker and more surrealistic environment than Bastian's Gothic, Andrew Wyeth inspired runway show would have suggested featuring an anteroom with walls entirely covered in wax drippings, and lit, naturally, by candles. Venture through the feather-covered portal (cleverly referencing the designer's wing insignia) to an even darker room and find a selection of clothes from Bastian's latest collection in very low light, including a few specially commissioned pieces just for the store. The overall effect is more like that of a set for a dream sequence from "American Horror Story" or "Hannibal", than of a place one would suggest for successfully selling expensive clothes, but BOFFO's Building Fashion program, of which this shop is the latest project, is less about commerce and more about invention and creative expression, and on that level, they succeeded.
As for Michael Bastian, we would love to see a real boutique open for him sometime (or even a more dedicated in-store shop in a store like Bergdorf's). While the enigmatic, mysterious environment that Bitterang created for him for his Fall 2013 collection well, ultimately, that line turned out to be more of an entertaining detour than a bold new direction for Bastian's label. His next collection turned out to be a return to the sunnier, classic-based look that his brand is built on. His Pop-up project made us wonder what a real, fully functioning Michael Bastian boutique would ultimately look like.
BOFFO Building Fashion 2013 Michael Bastian + Bitterang through November 21 at SuperPier 57, Chelsea
Have a closer look at the shop in the gallery below