Bottega Veneta creative director Tomas Maier has always taken a fine art-approach to design, an aesthetic that also extends to the house’s print ad campaigns. Often mining the art world for photography talent, Maier has collaborated with more than 25 photographers including Nan Goldin, Stephen Shore, Philip-Lorca DiCorcia, David Armstrong, Lord Snowdon, Tina Barney, Ryan McGinley, Collier Schorr, Alex Prager and Ralph Gibson. Since 2002, Maier, who joined then Gucci Group in 2001, has also chronicled the behind-the-scenes making of each campaign, a compilation of which forms his second tome, “Bottega Veneta: Art of Collaboration,” to be published by Rizzoli on Wednesday.
“The idea from the beginning was to collaborate with different artists. Everyone is shooting with the same five people. It’s not that they are not great — I’ve shot with some of them as well — but I chose to have someone with a very different eye look at my work and give it their spin,” Maier said, seated in his Melrose Place concept store Friday, when he was in town to host The Hammer Gala. “Back then I didn’t think about making a book, but we’d always document each shoot because I’m aware that it’s difficult to get that kind talent together with makeup, hair, lighting, models.”
He decided to make a book after about seven seasons, because “the audience only realizes after a while what they we’re looking at. In the beginning, people didn’t realize what I was after so it is nice now to be able to go backwards and say, ‘Ah, I didn’t know that was Nan Goldin or Philip Lorce DiCorcia.’”
Said Alex Prager, who shot the spring 2011 campaign in Miami, “I think by the time Tomas makes the specific decision to work with someone, he has looked over the artist’s body of work in depth and knows exactly why he is collaborating with that particular person for that particular collection. It is based on a very clear vision and best thing is that none of that changed after we began working together, and I have to say that is very rare.”
Maier also gets a kick out of shooting in often restricted locations such as museums or private homes. One of his favorites was The Stillman House in Bel-Air, Calif., designed by Richard Neutra and owned by Vidal Sassoon at the time he and Larry Sultan shot there. While Maier calls working with artists “very fragile territory,” he’s willing to give them carte blanche. “Once you go into the shoot you have to be brave and let them do what they think is right,” he said.
“I think that there’s nobody that blends fine art and fashion as well as he does,” said L.A.-based artist Mona Kuhn. “The most magical thing about Tomas is he gives you the green light to do what you do, and given that, every artist will do their best.” Sam Taylor-Johnson, who worked with Bottega in 2008 in a London studio, said, “It was very straightforward, there was no fussing. Whenever I’d ask him ‘Are you happy?’ he was like, ‘If you are happy.’”
Maier has another big project in the pipeline, the relocation of Bottega’s Rodeo Drive Maison that will be complete next spring. “I did a lot of research and when we showed it to the City of Beverly Hills they totally got the vibe and said, ‘Wow, this is great that somebody embraces what this is about instead of just bringing us another facade.’” After that, he’ll turn his attention to a new Maison on Madison Avenue in New York, slated for fall 2017, and down the road he’d like to do a Maison concept in Tokyo. “It’s important to show our clients that the product can live in different environments. I can propose designs and ideas, but once you own something, it becomes yours.”