If a lot of the fashions being shown this week in Milan seemed a little too much, Bottega Veneta stood out for quiet, but ultimately captivating chic, hinged on handsome tailoring and sumptuous, eye-catching accessories.
Making his debut as creative director of the brand — he was promoted from ready-to-design director following the ouster of Daniel Lee — Matthieu Blazy did not make the hard U-turn some expected.
There were still runway fireworks — a pair of fiery orange furry platforms, and dramatic leather circle skirts with crinolines of stiff fringe swishing beneath the hems. Yet most of the clothes registered as conservative and timeless, with subtle but interesting design features, like the sensational navy peacoat with its boomerang sleeves and rounded back, or the cropped pants with the hems sloped forward to exalt the towering platform pumps and to convey Blazy’s idea of craft in motion.
“A silhouette that really expresses the idea of motion, because Bottega is in essence a bag company. So you are going somewhere, you’re not staying home,” he explained backstage.
He also cited a wish to “give a place back to the idea of tailoring, especially in Italy.…I think it’s a nice alternative to loungewear.”
Blazy opened his display with a palate-cleansing outfit — a white tank top and jeans — that seemed more in tune with his previous job at Calvin Klein, where he worked as a design director under Raf Simons, who was among the guests seated on cubes of crushed metal topped with black leather cushions.
The press notes clarified that that the pants were not denim, but “a printed, supple nubuck, startlingly realized.” Blazy repeated the visual trick with striped men’s business shirts worn as short dresses over thigh boots. These too were made of printed nubuck, which in retrospect explains their sturdy appearance and underscored the designer’s vision of luxury as the “private pleasure of ‘quiet power,’ something felt, rather than seen.”
The designer works in a minimalist vein with usually a single visual flourish: short tank dresses came gently padded at the top, or sprouted stiff sprigs of leather fringe at the collarbone, while longer styles had ballooning skirts that were deflated on one side via a side slit.
The men’s collection was more firmly rooted in the classics and focused on outerwear: double-breasted topcoats generously proportioned and leather trenchcoats boasting demonstrative closures. The house’s signature woven leather — intrecciato — was worked into boxy clutch bags, unorthodox and hardly leak-proof hip waders, and his or hers double bucket bags slung over the shoulder like Jack and Jill might carry pails of water.
Backstage after the show, Kering honcho François-Henri Pinault put his arm around Blazy’s shoulder, and celebrities including Julianne Moore, Neneh Cherry and Tracee Ellis Ross lined up to embrace him.
Here is a designer who is unapologetic about addressing a more mature customer.
“You know, it’s very important to think about who wears what, and who has the money to afford it,” he told reporters in a scrum, leaning forward to speak into the bouquet of iPhones thrust at him. “I like the idea of being able to dress my parents, and that if they come to Bottega, they can find a coat. I’m really against this idea of just youth.”