Ah, the sporting life. It can make for unexpected strangeness. For spring, Tomas Maier “started with the outdoors, hiking, sailing, big nature,” he wrote in his Bottega Veneta program notes.


Such specificity could have led to a collection of pat coherence. Yet Maier worked his inspirations variously in a manner discordant and at times odd — invitingly so. While uneven, the show proved interesting due to Maier’s inventive applications executed to the exacting standards for which the brand is known.


It’s difficult for luxury brands to present athletic motifs on the runway, especially in genuinely casual contexts — how to embrace the lifestyle while distancing themselves from the contemporary competition? This was where Maier’s show was weakest. Not that the clothes looked inexpensive — to the contrary; but in “zhooshing” them up, he tricked them out, sometimes with overzealous mixes — a brown camouflage hoodie lined in leopard spots with contrasting print sleeves and shearling trim; a leopard-spotted swimsuit under the (curious) cover of a jacket in long-haired goat and shearling.


Conversely, Maier was at his best with less literal displays. For dresses, he incorporated utilitarian elements of performance — ropes, drawstrings, clasps — and billowing sail-like fabrics for dresses that looked great across a broad range: simple, funnel-neck popover with gabardine tape trim; fanciful full-skirted dress in peony cotton with orange braided embroidered stripes; arty blue-cotton affair with partial mesh overlay and random embroidered swirls. But his boldest moves were for evening. At a time when designers and the women they dress find dressing differently a challenge and a chore, Maier delivered, working a series of great-looking gowns in cotton poplin, securing halters with rope ties and decorating with athletic-band graphics. Along the way, he questioned status-quo concepts of what an evening dress should be. Bravo!