BOTTEGA VENETA: BACK TO ITS NICHE

Byline: Anamaria Wilson

NEW YORK — It’s good to be owned by Gucci.
After being acquired by Gucci Group last February, Bottega Veneta is being overhauled. The company’s New York store at 635 Madison Avenue is one of the first significant manifestations of the new Bottega Veneta, and its new look will be unveiled today.
The redesign of the company’s stores, and its signature leather goods line, is being headed by Bottega’s new creative director, Tomas Maier, who joined earlier this year. The moves mark a return to the company’s heritage.
“Bottega is a niche brand, a niche company that made its success out of being absolutely luxury, absolutely discreet, absolutely high-quality craftmanship. Over the last several years, those values weren’t there anymore. What we want to do is bring the company back to its roots and its original values,” said Patrizio di Marco, president of Bottega Veneta Worldwide.
They have done that by giving the store a luxe, but spare, design. The 6,400 square feet of selling space over two floors, is modern and clean, but the heavy use of brown lends a relaxed, earthy feel. The walls and carpets are dark taupe; the custom cabinetry and woodwork is made of African Iroko wood, and the cushions and benches are in chocolate leather.
“The intent was to create an environment which gives a sense of luxury, but which is functional — where the product is the focus,” said di Marco.
Maier takes it a step further. “What I wanted to convey in the store’s concept is a sense of timelessness, where there is a sense of serenity and luxury,” he said.
Maier employed the same design philosophy in the leather goods line by firmly sticking to classic pieces and offering a small selection of more au courant styles such as woven fringed satchels.
The Madison Avenue store is the first flagship in a string of units Bottega plans to open over the next few years as it repositions the brand. Gucci plans to open Bottega stores in Paris, London, Milan, Chicago, San Jose and Costa Mesa, Calif., next year, as well as eight stores in Japan. Other locations are still in negotiation, di Marco said.
The new stores will be in addition to a refurbishment plan over the next year for the rest of Bottega’s stores, which include units in Dallas, Houston, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
While each store’s redesign will contain signature elements — like the taupe color palette, rich materials, brushed steel shelving and beige ultrasuede wall insets — the company is anxious to respect their unique architecture.
Currently, 70 percent of Bottega’s business is retail, while 30 percent is wholesale. The line is sold at Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue and other specialty stores.
Di Marco declined to reveal Bottega’s 2001 sales, or provide projections for the Madison Avenue store. Bottega had sales of $50 million in 2000.
But Gucci sees a bright future for Bottega. When it acquired Bottega earlier this year, Gucci’s president and chief executive officer, Domenico De Sole, told WWD that he had “ambitious plans” for the company. Gucci Group currently has a 78.5 percent stake in Bottega. Gucci had no comment on who owns the remaining shares.
The Madison Avenue store is the first to showcase Maier’s entire spring collection, the first that he designed for the house. Bottega’s signature “Intrecciato” weave is still in full force in roomy, slouchy hobo bags and totes. The color palette is more basic for spring, with many browns, black and whites as well as a handful of pieces with a shot of color — for spring, it’s a candied pink. Simple leather flats share the display space with stilettos and slides in exotic skins like crocodile and lizard.
Prices range from about $500 for a small woven doughnut sack to $13,000 for a large crocodile bag. Shoe prices range from $250 to $410 for leather slides, wedges and pumps, while crocodile pumps retail for $2,300.
By next season, the company expects to offer custom-made pieces in a selection of colors and skins. “The true idea of luxury is being able to have what you want, when you want it,” said Maier.
The company was founded in 1966 by Vittorio and Laura Moltedo and became known for its woven leather handbags and accessories. Part of its old-world charm includes its age-old artisans, who handcraft all of the Bottega pieces in its own factory in Vicenza, Italy.
In 1997, the company attempted to branch out into ready-to-wear. Under Gucci’s ownership, however, it was scrapped. “One thing that we did strategically, because it didn’t make sense from an economic point of view or in terms of what we intended to do strategically as to the repositioning of the brand, was to kill the ready-to-wear line,” said di Marco.
As for its position amongst Italian luxury brands, di Marco said: “There is no way whatsoever Bottega can compete in the same fashion style or lifestyle arena as the Pradas and Guccis of the world. Everyone has to be loyal to their DNA. And the DNA of this company is to be an artisanal company of very high quality.”

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