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Chatting All Things Style With New York Men’s Fashion Director, Bergdorf Goodmans and Neiman Marcus, Bruce Pask

photo by Troy House

From Yuma to New York, Bruce Pask’s dazzling fashion career spans from editorial to retail and includes GQ, Annie Leibovitz, Broadway and T Magazine. Today, Pask serves as curator of the most important names in men’s style, as Fashion Director at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus.

He’s been called a fashion game-changer, best-dressed, and one of the top names in fashion. Known for his iconic street style, Pask is no slave to fashion. His carefully curated “uniform” of this season’s must-haves paired with his signature style makes him the man to watch. However, don’t think he obsesses over what to wear; he’s out the door in less than 15 minutes on a weekday, thinking more about his customers and the store than what he’s wearing that day. But, then again, we all care about what he’s wearing as he is one of the global go-to’s for what’s hot, what’s next, and what we should be buying this season.

Pask’s résumé is enviable: He’s held editor positions at T Magazine and GQ, he’s worked alongside the likes of Jim Moore and Annie Liebowitz (including one of her annual Hollywood cover shoots for Vanity Fair), and he’s even done costume design for a musical.

When you speak with him his approachable, humble, and excited manner reveal one of the secrets to his success: He’s a really nice guy.

Rather than tout his own success, he is always quick to acknowledge his early mentors and the legendary figures he’s worked with, to whom he credits his learning and inspiration. When you speak with him his approachable, humble, and excited manner reveal one of the secrets to his success: He’s a really nice guy. But don’t mistake nice for easy—he demands a rigor du jour of himself and those around him, and when it’s time for the fashion shows he wants to see everything. His drive and natural curiosity demand that of him. In fact, that’s another secret of his success.

“Obviously I’m really curious, and I think you have to be. That’s a quality that is necessary in this business, so I want to see everything,” he says.

And that curiosity started very early. As a young man in Yuma, Arizona, he and his brother would run to the store when the latest Interview or GQ magazine came out. A friend got all the fashion magazines and Pask said he loved going to her house to go through them, never realizing this interest in fashion could become a career.

I got really lucky. My supervisor very generously told me of this opening at GQ and encouraged me to interview. So, I got the job as the fashion assistant; it was an amazing way to be exposed to that world.

He later moved to New York and got his first job at Paul Smith. “It was really an amazing environment. It was very zeit-geisty; the people who would come in there were really interesting, and the clothing was very colorful and printed. It really helped expand my comfort level as far as what I would wear,” says Pask, who started working with stylists who would be in and out of the store pulling for fashion shoots, the foreshadowing of his next big break.

“I got really lucky. My supervisor very generously told me of this opening at GQ and encouraged me to interview. So, I got the job as the fashion assistant; it was an amazing way to be exposed to that world. It was basically like graduate school in a weird way. That’s where I learned about fabric and all the terminology. I was such a sponge for learning and it was an amazing kind of proving ground,” says Pask. He was eventually promoted to market editor and then became the associate fashion editor at GQ, a position he held for nearly a decade.

Although he was on an enviable career path, he yearned for a change and took a risk, leaving GQ to purse freelance styling. “It was completely exciting and terrifying, and very gratefully Elizabeth Saltzman, fashion director at Vanity Fair, introduced me to Annie Leibovitz. It was a really important moment for me because I started working on a lot of Annie’s editorial work or advertising work for Vanity Fair and then we did amazing Hollywood covers for Vanity Fair, ad campaigns for The Sopranos and a circus-themed cover for the cast of Friends,” says Pask, who is really proud of that shoot.

Pask also got involved in costume design and eventually returned to magazines as Fashion Director for Cargo magazine and Men’s Fashion Director for T Magazine: The New York Times Style Magazine.

His experience and keen eye for editorial style prepared him for where he is now, curating men’s fashion at Bergdorf Goodman and now Neiman Marcus as well. In fact, he thinks of retail in an editorial way.

Social media increased the flow of information to customers as well. “Easy access to information out there has really informed men and given great permission to care more about how they look, and has led to more of exploration and experimentation,” says Pask.

 

photo by Troy House

Pask has been in menswear for more than 20 years, and is well-acquainted with the players. “I have a granular knowledge of the category, and I have an intuition about where things are moving, where things are going, where our customers’ interest is moving. That comes from really training my eye for years in the category, where I think one becomes an expert. It’s sort of like a magazine in three dimensions really. We look at every moment as a possibility for educating the consumer; I think we do that very well. The element of surprise can’t be underestimated,” he says.

As far as what’s currently trending in menswear, Pask is quick to detail where fashion is headed. “We’re in a moment where proportions are starting to expand. We’re seeing a lot of designers exploring a wider pant, oversized coats and jackets, and I am intrigued by that like the dawning of the fashion,” says Pask.

Loving Mike Amiri This Fall

It’s a trend that trickles down to footwear, too, Pask says, citing Demna Gavsalia, the designer at Balenciaga, for influencing the movement. “He created the Triple S sneaker more than a year ago, literally a running sneaker with three stacked outsoles. The first time I saw it, they just looked really shocking, but it’s interesting how quickly the eye adjusts. It made sense that the growing proportion of the clothing would need more substantial footwear. Now every designer out there in that world is doing this really chunky running sneaker.”

I don’t love rules; I don’t love limitations. I think everything should be an opportunity to explore something new that makes you feel great.

Of course, how you interpret fashion dictates your own personal style. “I don’t love rules; I don’t love limitations. I think everything should be an opportunity to explore something new that makes you feel great. We are here to inform, hopefully influence, and ultimately find out what is personally compelling to [our customers]. We want to create these go-to items that just become part of someone’s day-in, day-out wardrobe,” he says.

Pask knows a little something about that as he is well-known for his 20-year relationship with his vintage Helmut Lang denim jacket, that he has been known to pack in a carry-on when he checks luggage.

Currently, he is loving the proportions of French chore jackets with a slightly A-line shape. “It’s still a slightly tailored presentation, but there’s a sort of deconstructed cotton moleskin sports jacket that I am really obsessed with at the moment. Denim will always be a part of my life without question, but I’m very compelled these days by these slightly utilitarian, but very chic, jackets,” he says.

You would think a man working in menswear would have quite the varied wardrobe, but he’s developed a go-to uniform.

“I’ve been very grateful. I do think that luck plays into it. I know that I was really given some great shots for sure, but I know I’ve worked hard my entire life. I really enjoy it, and I think as long as you enjoy what you do working hard is a pleasure.”

RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS

COFFEE OR TEA?

I don’t drink hot beverages; growing up in the Arizona desert, I just found it counter-intuitive.

FAVORITE SEE-AND-BE-SEEN LUNCH SPOT?

Bergdorf Cafe

FAVORITE PASTIME?

I love walking along the East River in the early evening.

FAVORITE RESTAURANT?

I’m obsessed with King’s County Imperial.

HOW DO YOU UNWIND?

I weekend at Bellport, NY on Long Island.

SOMETHING YOU LOVE?

Theatre in New York. I just saw Carmen Jones at the Classic Stage Company downtown, and that was just unbelievable.

FAVORITE TRAVEL DESTINATION?

I love, love Copenhagen for the design aesthetic. I find London endlessly enjoyable. I’m absolutely fascinated with Tokyo; how they do retail specifically is so inspiring and wonderfully inventive.

FAVORITE UP-AND-COMING DESIGNER?

ONE of my favorites and the one that I wear a lot of is a young designer Craig Green from the UK with his channel-quilted worker jacket. Mike Amiri has a great Sunset Boulevard kind of rock and roll mentality. I don’t think of him as up and coming anymore, but I certainly think Ronnie Fieg at KITH, is just doing amazing, amazing things.

FIRST IMPORTANT FASHION INVESTMENT?

Remember The Preppy Handbook in the ‘80s? We were deeply involved in it and we cared about it. So, I’m sure it was my first Ralph Lauren Polo shirt. We were of modest income, so it really was “an investment.”

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