Men’s Style speaks with GANT’s Swedish creative director Christopher Bastin about the significant overhaul of the famous American sportswear brand.
Originally a shirtmaker making shirts for other labels and based in the New England region of the US, GANT started as a label in its own right in 1949, when Bernard Gantmacher’s sons Marty and Elliott joined the business, after serving in the US Army in WWII.
In the 1960s, GANT shirts were the garment of choice for America’s male college students, of a distinctive cut and style superior to most other offerings. At one point in that heady decade it was claimed to be the second largest shirtmaker in the world. The Gantmacher family sold out of the business in the late 1960s and it has since been through numerous ownership changes.
Intimately connected with America’s East Coast leisure lifestyle, this year GANT has unveiled an ambitious new brand identity which “shakes the sand off”. Creative Director Christopher Bastin, who’s been with the brand since 2005 and in his current role since 2012, explains some of the motivations behind this move…
What are some of the reasons behind the decision to rebrand GANT in such a large way?
We needed to freshen up the brand a bit. We’ve been very, successful for such a long time and sometimes you forget to stop and take a look at things from the outside. We also felt that them was a gap in the market for more semi-casual American Sportswear, something a bit more sophisticated.
Has this rebranding been a gradual protect or something more recent?
For me it’s been an ongoing process since I started working on the launch of GANT Rugger back in 2009. It was an injection of a more fashion-driven concept, and when I became Creative Director we started the process of updating the overall aesthetics and creative direction. Now this rebrand has also been applied to marketing, stores and visual identity, which make the re-branding complete.
The new structure includes three sub-brands – GANT Originals, GANT Rugger and GANT Diamond G – how do these work together?
GANT has a wide audience; we’re sold in roughly 70 countries and to spread demographics. In order to deliver a clear message to the consumers we’ve chosen to focus on three sub-brands that cater to their specific needs, both from an aesthetic and marketing point of view. GANT Originals is Casual American Sportswear, the GANT everyone knows but now geared towards a more active consumer… still colourful and built around classic pieces and looks. GANT Diamond G is Sophisticated American Sportswear for a cosmopolitan consumer, always on the move-rather clean and toned down. GANT Rugger is our design laboratory where we can play around and push the envelope. They’re all based around our icon product, the button-down shirt, and all firmly rooted in our American East coast background. GANT Originals and GANT Diamond G are more for different occasions than different style, while GANT Rugger is more out there and fashion driven.
You employ versatile dressing concepts like “Uptown-Downtown” and “Desk-to-Dinner” – do these come from market research or observation of how modern people dress?
Both, actually. We did a lot of research with focus groups to really understand how people looked at us as a brand. We had never done that in 65 years. You start assuming a lot of things that aren’t necessarily true. We realised there are a lot of people out there who love GANT and want to wear it to work, so we decided to make GANT Diamond G work for just that: from desk to dinner.
Do shirting and the Ivy League heritage remain important elements for the brand?
On shirting, absolutely, and we want to make it even more so. We want our button-down shirt to become synonymous with GANT in people’s minds. The really preppy Ivy look has been toned over the past three years – less bow ties and tweed jackets, but the US East Coast roots will always play apart in what we do.
What appeal will the new collections have, specifically, for Australian consumers?
We still maintain a casual, highly wearable sense of style with GANT Originals and I have this idea that you’re a very sporty and healthy bunch, so it will hopefully be right up your alley!