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As You Like It: Bottega Veneta Touts Custom Items

"Bottega Veneta has always offered customization but not all our customers know about it,” said chief executive officer Marco Bizzari.

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CHICAGO — Bottega Veneta is more than willing to cater to a client’s special request. The luxury brand has customized luggage to fit the hold of a client’s private plane, created a handbag to match the color of her favorite lipstick, designed custom wedding dresses and produced leather wall paneling for a client’s home.

Now the brand is taking its customization atelier on the road, visiting Chicago last weekend, New York this Thursday through Saturday and Beverly Hills and Costa Mesa, Calif., in July to offer clients a chance to select the shape, color, skin and treatment of their Bottega handbag.

“Bottega Veneta has always offered customization but not all our customers know about it,” said chief executive officer Marco Bizzari.

In turn, the brand, which launched its U.S. custom initiative here, is touting its mantra “When Your Own Initials Are Enough,” and inviting select clients to meet one-on-one with Italian representatives who oversee the brand’s atelier in Vicenze, Italy. Shoppers can then create their own items, which may range from an $800 wallet or $14,500 crocodile portfolio to the brand’s most intricate $80,000 handbag, all taking between three and six months to craft.

“The project is a way to educate people about ways to make their favorite handbag personal and unique,” Bizzari noted. “It has been interesting to see the creativity and personal style of our customers. It helps us anticipate the kinds of products they want.”

In Chicago, women arrived with personal stylists and friends in tow to flip through Bottega’s swatch book, which shows different skins, colors and washes. For example, shoppers opting for one of the brand’s iconic styles, the Cabat handbag, could choose from 16 colors of crocodile skins presented in five washes.

Even regular clients needed extra time to evaluate their purchases, though. “When I told her the price, she said, ‘Give me some Champagne!’” one stylist whispered. After a few toasts, the shopper, who wore a Dior print dress and a Bottega bag retailing for roughly $20,000, considered her options, consulted her friend and her stylist, who noted, “That would be a great addition to your collection.” She eventually left the store with a pair of Bottega shoes. Later that day, the customer called to order a custom handbag in the neighborhood of $20,000.

Bizzari said the Windy City location at 800 North Michigan Avenue was a natural place to kick off the custom events. “Chicago is a highly successful market for Bottega Veneta,” he said. “It continues to perform well and we have a very loyal clientele who purchased a lot throughout the years.”

Bottega held its first custom handbag event in London in February, unveiled the concept in the U.S. this month and plans to conduct similar events in Hong Kong and Seoul this fall.

Although the luxury brand indicated that custom orders represent a small portion of sales, that percentage is growing, with custom furniture becoming an increasingly important category.

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