Thomas Maier is running a business. His Fall 2013 show for Bottega, a refined collection of wearable, salable, but undeniably interesting clothing, took its cues from '40s style and architectural construction. His penchant for artistic gestures was apparent from the word go, when Raquel Zimmerman opened the show in a black crepe coat festooned with ruffles along the shoulder, but he dialed those impulses back for most of the pieces. Most of them were pure elegance: a strong-shouldered dress in ochre fell into pleats that created a drop-waist effect, while a white shift dripping in blue beading (worn by Joan Smalls) looked as confident as it was sparkly. It's garments like these, that so seamlessly blend art and commerce, that have turned Bottega Veneta into a billion-dollar business. Who can resist them?
Maybe it was the waves, or the bold brows and strong lips, but in every look coming down the runway at Bottega Veneta Fall 2013, you could see a little Katharine Hepburn — that brand of elegance and confidence. It also had something to do with the dresses and coats — a lineup that bore a little resemblance to '40s femininity with bold shoulders on modest dresses cut to the knee; a rich red, brown, black, and golden-yellow palette; and lace-up oxford-style heels to complete the looks. Otherwise, there are probably not too many other similarities to be made in the collection; there's more attention to structure — more modern proportional play in cocoon coats or dresses with architectural ruffles sculpted from the waist down. Working primarily in satin and silk, with only touches of leather, Tomas Maier puts the focus on movement — the artistry is in the construction, the fold of fabric, the way the garment moves. Only sometimes is the art something more obvious, like the abstract patterns and embellishment applied to the line's cream-colored sheaths.
Ladylike sweetness met downtown tough at Bottega Veneta's Spring 2013 presentation. Designer Tomas Maier offered up intricately studded skirts, seductively fringed corset dresses, boxy button-down blouses, and embellished pencil skirts — all of which explored the tension between pretty and subversive seamlessly. Standout looks included sequined tees and point d'esprit cardigans tucked into demure appliquéd skirts and sexy laser-cut lace dresses in shadowy floral hues.
Tomas Maier sent out a collection defined by its nod to 1940s-inspired femininity. The hemlines were longer, the floral prints evoked a nostalgic feel, and the cinched waistlines reminded us of Casablanca. Everything from poppy-printed tea dresses and butterfly-adorned belts to bustier silhouettes and platform loafers made their way down the runway, proving retro-leaning wares will be a mainstay in Spring's wardrobe. While it was mostly ladylike loveliness all around, there were a few tougher juxtapositions, too. Thus, for the slightly edged-up girl, Maier injected more exotic details — studs and snakeskin — into his dresses. If you're a fan of the brand's iconic woven leather bags, specifically the Intrecciato, you'll be happy to see a fresh supply of Spring-ready bags. And this round of slick accessories came complete with a more undone (read: shredded) finish, butterfly appliqués, and fringe. See our trend breakdown below, then click on for the full Bottega Veneta Spring 2013 collection.
- Trends: Retro floral prints, tea dresses that hit right at the knee, the butterfly motif, bustier silhouettes, and collar necklines.
- Colors: Peachy orange, black, nude, pink, rust, cream, navy blue, and white.
- Key Piece: While the bustier dresses are outright sexy, we don't want to be without the old-school floral-printed ones this Spring.
- Accessories: The brand's iconic woven leather bags, oversize clutches, square-frame sunglasses, platform sandals and loafers, and butterfly belts.
- Who Should Wear It: We're hoping Michelle Williams steps out in one of the quirkier poppy-printed sheaths, but as for the eye-catching platforms? They have Alexa Chung's name written all over them.
A seasonless assortment of grown-up separates in fluid silhouettes were the touchpoints of Tomas Maier's appealing Resort 2013 collection for Bottega Veneta. The designer looked to art, and particularly the frescoes of Tiepolo and Veronese, for a faded bouquet palette of butter yellow, pale peach, and pistachio, working each hue into powerful head-to-toe monochrome looks — complete with matching shoes and bags.
To capitalize on the season's long selling period — and to capture its neither-here-nor-there transitional spirit — pieces came in light fabrics such as viscose jersey and superfine cashmere, but were styled in lean, ultra-functional layers. Bags — a hallmark for the brand — embodied this same sense of innovative practicality: in addition to leather, the season's intrecciato clutches, satchels, and totes came woven in rubber, metal, and Japanese paper.
>> To say Tomas Maier is a perfectionist is an understatement — The New Yorker just profiled him, and when writer John Colapinto went to visit the designer at Bottega Veneta's Milan headquarters, one of the PRs inspected Colapinto beforehand, picking off a "microscopic" piece of lint and commenting: "Oh, God. If that's there, he won't be able to think of anything else." In fact, Maier, who is now 53, dropped the "h" from his first name in his thirties, for symmetry's sake.
Maier refuses to live in Milan, "a city whose many design flaws he finds too frustrating to bear," Colapinto writes, so he spends a lot of time in airports between his home in Florida and the Bottega office in Milan. "I just sit there [at the airport] and look at people and I see what's the malfunction and how can we help that man," Maier says. "I pity him! That he makes his life so miserable — himself! — by carrying some ill-functioning bag that rips his jacket half off and gives him a bad shoulder ache at the end of the day. And it makes him look an idiot on top of everything."
Under Maier's guidance, Bottega — which was "weeks from bankruptcy" when he started, he says — has seen sales increase 800 percent in the past nine years. And part of that can be attributed to the Cabat bag Maier created — one of the label's top-selling items — which features no logos, no hardware, and no adornments, but carries a six-thousand dollar price tag. It's something of an anti-It It Bag.
"The It Bag is a totally marketed bullshit crap," Maier says. "You make a bag, you put all the components in it that you think could work, you send it out to a couple of celebrities, you get the paparazzi to shoot just when they walk out of their house. You sell that to the cheap tabloids, and you say in a magazine that there's a waiting list. And you run an ad campaign at the same time. I don't believe that's how you make something that's lasting — that becomes iconic as a design."
Maier sends the Cabat down the runway every year, unchanged, except for a difference in color or leather treatment. Only about 500 are made each season, which invariably sell out, and although Bergdorf Goodman and other luxury retailers have pleaded with Maier, he refuses to sell the Cabat bag anywhere but at Bottega Veneta stores.
When he first joined Bottega, Maier notified his bosses at Gucci Group (which owns the label), that in his first year designing for the brand, he would give no interviews and run no advertising. He also didn't want his name attached. "At that time in the nineties, lots of companies were called Tom Ford for Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, Dior by John Galliano — you know, everything had an endless name," he explains. He hates the idea of designer cult of personality — of Karl Lagerfeld, for instance, he says: "Who cares how thin he is? Hasn't he reached a point in life where he can relax."
He's also anti-materialism: "I'm not somebody who likes to possess. I'm not the person who has six hundred suits. I want to have two suits. Actually, I want to have one suit, and I replace it." He applies that feeling to how people should shop, insisting that Bottega's goods are not beyond the reach of the middle class, which has been trained to want too many things. "Anyone, he said, could afford one $550 hand-painted cashmere scarf," Colapinto writes. "'Just have less,'" he said."
>> Bottega Veneta is offering a livestream of its show for the first time on Saturday, Sept. 25 at 9:30 am EST, but they're not taking the democratic approach that usually goes along with such a move. Instead, the livestream is invitation-only and offered specifically to top costumers or invited guests unable to travel to Milan. Post-show, those viewers will receive a digital lookbook and be able to reserve the Spring 2011 merchandise immediately after on the brand's website. “Our goal is to put this technology to the service of our customers,” explains creative director Tomas Maier on the press release. “We would like to share the excitement and beauty of the live runway show with them, and to do so within the privacy and calm of the Bottega Veneta environment.”
In the 12th episode of the season, Naomi looks casually glamourous in a gold Marc by Marc Jacobs sweater, which buttons up the back for extra style. She wears it off the shoulder to exude subtle sexiness, and accessorizes with matching gold jewelry. Throw on black skinny jeans and a pair of flat boots and you'll have Naomi's style in no time! Be sure to shop her exact sweater and other like items now.
Photo courtesy of The CW
PPR Update: Tomas Maier Recycling Unused Material for Bottega Shoes, YSL Reporting $24M Loss, and Pinault "Impressed" With Son
>> Even designers are shopping the closet when it comes to piecing together their latest collection. Fortune's Peter Gumbel writes in his new profile on Francois-Henri Pinault of PPR: "All the brands have been scouring for ways to save cash. Hiring and salaries have been frozen since last September. Bonuses for this year have been halved too. Inventiveness has become the order of the day."
Robert Polet, CEO of PPR's Gucci Group, illustrates with a story of how he found Tomas Maier on the floor of Bottega Veneta's headquarters in New York City with his shoe manager last November, going through a pile of books filled with leather and skin samples. Fortune relates: "They were checking how much of each material they had in stock, planning to use it up in the next collections. 'I left the room and thought, Wow,' Polet says. 'Finding ways to manage down inventory has almost become a sport.'"
>> Just a few days after LVMH reported a decline, causing all marketing to be cut save for its top-performing brands, PPR reported a 76 percent decline in first-half profits. Tomas Maier can breathe a sigh of relief: the company's only area of growth was Bottega Veneta, on which PPR has been focusing, which saw an 8.6 percent rise in sales in the second quarter.
At flagship brand Gucci, which accounts for the bulk of Gucci Group's profits, Frida Giannini was credited by PPR chairman Francois-Henri Pinault for bolstering PPR as a whole with sustained demand for her bags in China.