Meeting the debonair Jason Basmajian, Chief Creative Offier of Gieves & Hawkes
December 23, 2015
Friday night usually is the day that everyone looks forward to for a offwork happy hour and catching with friends for a long vibrant night with drinks and laughter, but for this particular Friday night, I have something more purposeful to do by attending a very inspiring and valuable session with Mr. Jason Basmajian, Chief Creative Officer of Gieves & Hawkes, talks about his career journey and insight about mens’ fashion, style and marketing menswear for this prestigious English tailoring brand, with such profound heritage and story, bring a modern breathe of air to menswear aficionados and connoisseurs who look for high quality tailoring, British sartorial tradition and elegance in a modern way.
While I thought I was pretty late for the session, it’s barely the beginning when I arrived, seeing the suave Jason was in the middle of the room having conversation with the guests, wearing his iconic 3-piece heather grey peak lapel suit, with a clean white shirt and a black and grey stripe tie that fully expresses his aesthetic and precision on refinement and exquisite style of a modern day gent, which makes me to have a second look with my attire once again before meeting the gentleman.
Throughout the session, Jason expresses not only his passion on menswear but also illustrates his intelligence of creating an appealing lifestyle concept for a menswear brand with his know-how, from the new interior of the Gieves & Hawkes flagship to the new video clips for a quick guide of mens attire plus the style relevant between a father & son, his soft-spoken voice doesn’t make the discussion sounded flat, on contrary, it is fascinating that makes me keep listen more and more, getting to know the secret about building a sustainable mens lifestyle brand and career.
Before the talented and suave Jason become the innovative force of the prestigious British tailoring house, the gentleman has previously worked in Brioni as their artistic director, reinventing the new image for the Italian tailoring brand and develop their womens collection, and prior to this, Jason’s portfolio also associated with several international fashion designer including Donna Karan, Calvin Klein and S.T. Dupont.
Perhaps it’s a coincident that his life is meant to be hooking up with the fashion houses with deep heritage, but it seems that all made a perfect sense that seeing the harmonious marriage between the profound history and savoir-faire of these renowned fashion / tailoring houses with the intelligence, aesthetic and passion that burning inside the heart of the fine gent, carrying their hands and brings out their very best with his exquisite taste and execution.
There’s something very special about Jason that I simply like to discover more, it’s not just about his sophisticated style in a well-tailored suit, but his drive and willpower inside his core that flows very gently and subtle yet very impeccable and motivating. I am very honor to have a brief conversation with the gentleman, letting him to share more about his insight and passion on refined style of a modern day gentleman.
My Modern Darcy: What motivates you to become a fashion creative professional? And how did the impact of menswear or mens’ lifestyle influence you to be who you are today?
Jason Basmajian: I first became interested in menswear working during the summer vacation in a very beautiful Men's specialty boutique on Cape Cod where we my family spent the summers. The store had many beautiful clothing and brand such as Loro Piana, Cuccinelli, Luciano Barbera were all new to the USA. The fabrics and finishing were all such high quality and the style had an English sensibility but the brands were Italian. I remember saving up to buy special pieces of clothing. I became interested in the fabric, cut, detailing, fit of the clothing
MMD: You have been working for several prestigious menswear houses from French, Italian to British, can you tell us about the distinction and characteristics in between them and how your aesthetic cope with these 3 different roots in terms of menswear?
JB: I have been fortunate to work in Paris, Milan and London. The styles do have distinct style and aesthetic differences. French menswear has never held the importance that womenswear has had in fashion. Today the style is more trendy or cutting edge fashion. I feel the Italians have been best at packaging and exporting their aesthetic as a lifestyle. Most of the inspiration comes from the British but they have a better sense of marketing it, softening it, making it more seductive. Brioni was an amazing experience and I learned so much. There was such pride of work and the quality, at that time, was unparalleled in ready to wear. Gieves and Hawkes has been the most interesting at creating a modern perspective on a 243 year old brand with Royal and Military heritage. I wanted to create an international language while keeping THE British accent. In each case I have brought my own personal style, taste, and aesthetic but stayed within each brand's DNA.
MMD: I know that your role with Gieves & Hawkes are looking after pretty much every aspect from the creative side from the collection itself to the refit of the store interior also visual communications, how can you keep yourself balance while looking after all these different aspect?
JB: I believe for a project to be successful it has to be extremely coherent and consistent. There needs to be 1 global message from the collection, style, retail environment, communication and service. A brand needs to have core values with a guardian who makes sure all the parts come together and stay on track. I am lucky to have a fantastic team and everyone believes in our message and brand direction.
MMD: I remember that you have mentioned about trend vs style which it resonates to me, can you share your insight about timeless elegance for menswear or mens’ style?
JB: Men want to feel and look as good as women today and are taking more time and spending more money to take care of themselves. Mens style is about finding what works for you and stay with a look you feel comfortable with. Trends come and go but quality and style will endure. I think once men find a look or a style that suits them then they should stay with it. That's not to say to not evolve and be open to change but your base should become your style. If a man feels comfortable and good in what he is wearing he will feel confident, powerful, attractive and successful. I think style goes beyond dressing. It's how you live your live.
MMD: Can you share a bit about your key to success in your career? And what’s your aspiration in your life?
JB: In my career I feel I have been able to balance creativity with a commercial sensibility. I feel I am able to understand a brand’s values and move it forward. I seem to always work with heritage brands moving. I like to work with brands that have a story, a history, a soul and make them relevant. One of my key to successes is never loose sight that you are only as good as your team and you need to be successful consistently over time to earn credibility.
MMD: Can you share with us about your personal style? And what are the must-haves in your wardrobe?
JB: My personal style is relaxed elegance with a strong tailoring base. I love well cut 3 piece suits. I also like monochromatic color palettes and rich neutrals. Wearing a fine gauge knit with a suit is a nice way to keep it elegant but relaxed. I wear mostly grey and navy and like a graphic clean look without too much detail or embellishment.I do feel clothes, regardless of what men choose to wear, need to be well tailored and fit properly. I encourage men to take the extra time to do this. Wardrobe staples are grey flannel or tweed suits, navy cashmere blazer, dark raw denim jean, English bench made shoes, a well cut dinner suit, white shirts, and fine gauge knit crew and turtlenecks. I also love overcoats and have many, I like wearing them over sweaters on the weekend.
MMD: How do you define a modern day gentleman nowadays? And what are the qualities that he should have?
JB: A modern gentleman today is not very different from the past - be polite, courteous, considerate. 'Thank you' and 'please' go a long way. Be well-read, well-dressed, well-spoken without being too self-conscious about yourself, and above all, have a good sense of humour.
MMD: Can you share a little bit about your next venture?
JB: I am very excited about my next venture as Chief Creative Officer of Cerruti. Nino Cerruti was well ahead of his time in creating modern elegant clothing, he understood fabric and cut without superfluous detail or exaggeration. He defined a new masculine individual style that was relaxed but chic. The house has gone through many years of change but I am challenged with bringing it to the next generation in the spirit of Mr. Cerruti. January will be the first presentation of the new collection.
MMD: Do you have any advice for some young creative talents who are about to enter the menswear designing field?
JB: Try to gain as much experience as you can and defiantly work on a retail floor at some point. It's the beginning and end of all we do. Try different areas of your field and be a sponge to experiences and people who want to share with you. Always remember who your final customer is.