“I don’t want to give away too much, but it’s pretty punchy. It’s going to be an upbeat collection. It’s not serious at all, it’s very playful and happy.” Deborah Sams told me a week before their fashion week show last night. “The collection is about celebrating life and the clothes are sort of reflective of that.”
My mind raced at the thought of a multitude of colour being injected into the muted, minimalist brand I’ve been a convert to since their beginnings in 2006. My personal wardrobe rotates a kind of best-of Bassike soundtrack. Pieces that, despite being part of seasonal collections remain timeless and, during annual closet purges, rarely feature in the discard pile. Deborah Sams and Mary-Lou Ryan began their high-fashion-casual label as a result of their t-shirt and jeans favouring. They had both worked in larger fashion corporations before they became a united front, bonding over a love of denim and the quest to blend the slouch life with an upmarket style. And blend they did. So successfully, that Bassike now boasts 11 stores in Australia as well as being stocked overseas and on premium international shopping sites.
The label that many recognise for its long-lasting, uber-comfortable cotton tees (especially those with the famous ‘Dot’ print), is now entering its 13th year. Perhaps that explains the exuberant splash this season – it’s becoming a renegade teenager. But Bassike has something many other labels don’t. A rock-solid core DNA. Any evolution they have undertaken is painstakingly planned and not a result of whimsy. This is a brand that knows who it is and what its customer wants. One with a non-negotiable direction that doesn’t cut corners and whose standards are immensely high. Such strength is a credit to the formidable duo.
“The main thing for us has always been about investing in the [garments] and the integrity of the final product. It’s always been about what the finished piece looks like. We’ve never been a brand to cut costs to try and make more money. Not just for the benefit of the customer, but because I have such a high personal standard. If I’m not happy with it, I’m not going to put it out into the market. If I’m not proud of something, I’m not going to sell it.” says Sams.
Last night, their intimate showcase, held at Sydney’s Apollo restaurant, fit the Bassike DNA perfectly. A soiree that was equal parts chic and casual – exactly like the fashions themselves. It’s cult-like really. Once you become a Bassike customer, you remain one. Your weekend casuals sport nothing else, alfresco entertaining just means adding a heel to your slouch jean and that night out with girls is an excuse to wear a statement earring with your oversized pinstriped blouse. I mention to Sams that Bassike has definite cult-status these days, that’s it’s become a relaxed kind of super-label. She laughed and seemed surprised,
“I think we thought when we started that we were on the verge of something new, it was that slouch, relaxed look and we were sort of at the forefront of that here. And that really became what we were known for. But I think we’ve done a good job with putting slouch back into a high-end sort of feel and really building collections around it. Whether it be our tailoring or denim. I suppose it’s a reflection of the way Lou and I dress.”
“We’ve both come from more denim backgrounds and we’re jeans-and-tshirts girls but we really do love tailoring and traditional dressing. Which leant itself to a slouchy pant with either a heel or trainer. It’s sort of an evolution of our own style I think. [It’s about achieving] that relaxed look but in an elevated way, so you look presentable and comfortable, but you’re not looking like you’re trying too hard.”
Bassike is an immediately intoxicating purchase. The imagery that hangs in the storefronts are so magnetic that, before you know it, you’re standing at the counter snapping up a whole new uniform for your season ahead. So viewing the new season last night was not just inspiring to be privvy to, but an insight into what I’ll actually be wearing for the spring/summer of 2020.
And here’s what it looks like. Beach-striped Terrycloth layers tucked into high-waisted leather slouch shorts. Green and tangerine watercolour prints splashed over drawstring trousers and volume kaftan dresses. Muted lemon separates matched back with Terry throws and tie-front accessories and inspired, oversized gingham on a very covetable bias-skirt-tie-top ensemble. In addition, Bassike’s utility-stronghold remains through chic paperbag trousers and an androgynously volumed beige shirt-and-trouser set. Finally, swim, via minimalist-cut neoprene, cemented the offering, placing this collection as exactly what you’d like to see in your suitcase upon arrival in Capri. Or Sardinia. Or, given the location and menu last night, Santorini.
So just how does a label like Bassike come to be the powerhouse it now is? Once again presenting an incredibly chic collection to a room full of fashion types all hastily bookmarking what they’ll be personally snapping up just as soon as they can. How do they block out the marketplace noise and just stick to their guns?
“I think [it’s about] creating something very true and honest and organic. Then when things start to get tough and the market gets competitive and a lot of new brands come in, [if] you’ve got your own DNA and your own thing happening and there’s an honesty about it, and a story behind it, people tend to support you.” says Sams.
And of course there’s the strength in a long-lasting partnership, too “[Mary-Lou and I] make sure that we have time together and really open communication. We always make sure that we come back together and work as a team and communicate and agree. We have adjoining offices with a door, and we make sure that we stay close to each other. We’re like sisters, we’ve been through every possible thing you could go through.”
This season, really does feel celebratory for the duo and, indeed, for the whole Bassike team. Last night, there was an engaging joy both in the atmosphere in the room and in the collection. The range conjured brighter days ahead, images of laying on a beach chair draped in fresh Terry cloth, of wandering a sea-breezed resort in a perfectly imperfect lemon two-piece.
I mention to Sams that in my house we have a specific “Bassike issue”. A problem whereby on Saturday mornings my husband, son and self will often emerge wearing our Dot t-shirt. No one wants to get changed, so we leave the house looking like team Bassike on tour. I ask if this is just a bi-product of joining the cult? Or does it happen in her house, too? Laughing, she concedes that yes it does, especially between her husband and son. I suppose this makes for even more reason to snap up the latest from the seasonal collection, a fresh injection of Bassike’s best that’s all my own.
Bassike Resort 2020