GANT: The Hip And Historical Brand

By Paddy Kamen

How can a brand that began over 60 years ago have such a fresh, strong appeal today? A strong team, from the founder on through to the current creative leadership, makes GANT stand above the crowd.

It was an industrious Bernard Gantmacher who discovered quite by accident that he had a gift for sewing and apparel design. After immigrating to the 1914 from his native Ukraine, Gantmacher studied to become a pharmacist, but it was at his night job in a garment factory in New York City that he discovered both his life partner and his ideal profession. Gantmacher’s first job was sewing shirt collars, while his soon-to-be wife specialized in buttons and buttonholes. Who knew that they would later become known for men’s shirts with a distinctive twist: a button on the back collar to help keep a necktie in place?

The couple started their independent business as subcontractors, known as GANT, making shirts for other labels and soon became renowned for their quality craftsmanship. Gantmacher began labeling his shirts with a logo: a diamond with a ‘G’, which was printed on the shirttail. This distinctive sign of superior quality helped to make his signature shirts coveted bestsellers, with demand far outstripping supply.

The couple’s sons joined the business after active service in World War II and created the GANT of New Haven label in 1949. They brought button-down collars to the American market, complete with the distinctive back-collar button, innovative box pleat and their other invention, the locker loop. Their innovations won a dedicated following for the label. Students and professors at Yale University in New Haven were big fans of the comfortable, relaxed shirts from GANT (the factory was located near the campus) and the now-legendary Yale Co-op shirt was originally made exclusively for the university in the 1960s. It’s still going strong, as are the famous GANT Rugger shirts. America’s sportswear heritage simply cannot be discussed without the name GANT figuring prominently.

The Gantmacher family sold the business in 1967 and since then, growth has been exponential. GANT has furthered its association with apparel, accessories, footwear, fragrances and home furnishings that are defined by a casual yet classy aesthetic, combining the best of itsNew Englandroots with a European touch.

Christopher Bastin is the new creative director at GANT, where he has played a key role in many company milestones since 2005. He is credited with the successful re-launch of the company’s GANT Rugger collection and its subsequent market resurgence. His work infused a modern sensibility into the company that has been integral in helping it reach a new generation of customers who have discovered and embraced GANT. According to Viva International Group’s Public Relations Manager Jon Martinez, Bastin is now responsible for providing seasonal inspiration and design direction for all collections. “He serves as global brand spokesperson for all activities relating to design and creative direction.”

Viva was the first and only licensee for GANT eyewear, which launched in 2001. “The partnership between Viva and GANT is a perfect fit,” notesMartinez.

Like the apparel, the eyewear collections fall into three distinct categories: GANT, GANT Rugger and GANT Michael Bastian.

GANT’s collaboration with renowned American designer Michael Bastian began in 2010 with a menswear line under the GANT by Michael Bastian brand. This collaboration led to a GANT by Michael Bastian Spring/Summer 2011 women’s wear collection, which also developed into the bold and edgy GANT by Michael Bastian Eyewear collection with Viva International Group.

The latest eyewear collections from GANT are a mixture of preppy, vintage and mod. Nicole Durda, global brand manager for GANT Eyewear at Viva, sums up the ongoing appeal of this wonderful brand: “The GANT Eyewear collection offers the perfect blend of classic and fashion styling for both men and women, all at a competitive price.”

The Fall 2012 GANT by Michael Bastian Eyewear collection features the G MB Copley front and center with its bold design. A double bridge highlights the frame’s deep angular front shape, which is finished in handmade acetate.

The GANT men’s eyewear collection remains deeply rooted in the heritage of the brand. A distinctive round shape is emphasized in the design of the G Tupper model. A keyhole bridge adds a vintage element to this contemporary style, along with two metal studs on each corner of the frame’s front.

For women, the GW Juvet is a new GANT Eyewear style featuring chunkier plastics in a vintage-inspired shape, with laser-engraved logo treatments on the temples and metal stud detailing.

Round shapes maintain their appeal and the GR Borea from GANT Rugger Eyewear stands out with a slightly modified retro feel married to a more polished look. Horn colorations in brown and crystal, as well as light tortoise and black add depth to the relaxed styling of this handmade acetate frame.

The GANT brand continues to increase its retail expansion, including plans to open a GANT store inCanada.  Eponymous stores are located in all of the world’s major capitals. This high-end exposure only increases the perceived value of the brand in the eyes of consumers, creating a cachet that infuses GANT Eyewear collections. Jon Martinez notes: “The eyewear provides an entry into the brand’s fashion and a great opportunity to get into the spirit of GANT.”