Beneath Bottega Veneta’s brilliant cutting-edge sheen lies a rare sense of authenticity. Look around you — millions are entrapped by their phones, endlessly scrolling through social media. Ominous underpinnings of advertisements disguised as personal content infiltrate social media feeds, carefully convincing the audience to buy into a product or forcing the viewer to assimilate as its followers. It creates a harrowing sight — content stuffed down one’s face has infuriatingly proven successful.
Ex-creative director Daniel Lee explored these maladies with bold gambits on past occasions. He first made the label go dark on all its social media platforms, deleting its Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts in one fell swoop, before reorganising the collections as private affairs by hosting discreet off-the-calendar shows. The modern era of Bottega Veneta ushered in aspiration towards intimacy, a personal connection to the brand that wades through the noise of targeted advertisements; something felt rather than seen. Then, when Daniel Lee left, his replacement Matthieu Blazy instead looked in the mirror and chafed at the label’s reflection.
Unlike Wardrobe 03 and Salon 03 — both attempted to capture a more obvious, straightforward angle of Daniel Lee’s radicality — Matthieu Blazy’s proposal for Winter 2022 tames the label’s recent taste for excess with an inward-looking suite of looks and accessories that was woefully absent of the reclusive and cultishly beloved traits introduced by Daniel Lee. Instead, where once a shearling dress sewn with the animated proportions of an enlarged flower once appeared on Bottega Veneta’s runway, Matthieu Blazy’s Winter 2022 is distilled clean of such nuances. It is completely ambient — focusing more on revealing a more discreet sense of luxury by using craftsmanship to hide the details others would so mistakenly make obvious. These deliberate counterpoints have become nothing less than routine among the growing canon of collections predominantly created after a predecessor has abruptly left.
His follow-up — Pre-Spring 2023 — again oscillates between comforting recollections of the past and tentative inklings of the future. With just about 64 looks that continue from where was left off in Winter 2022, it is the House’s largest and most focused pre-collection yet — one that perpetuates a simple message: Quiet Power. For a start, the Intrecciato weave — the label’s finely-tuned answer for monograms and logos — has been similarly shrunk to how it was when Tomas Maier steered the ship. It is further scrunched, pleated and reshaped in the large squares of Daniel Lee’s reintroduced Cassettes. The new styles for the accessories are noticeably designed to be more accessible, which includes the reintroduction of the classic backpack, document cases and bucket bags in its host of menswear offerings.
Silhouettes from the ready-to-wear are relaxed and the resulting clothes evocatively communicate a sense of ease with a utilitarian approach in their aesthetic. It offers a useful framework for interpreting movement, where every inch of the garments was carefully put together and imagined “on the go” — never allowed to be still and dormant. Styles are also repeated from the Winter 2022 collection, with new renditions in colour and material. Leather pants make a return and now feature an Intrecciato weave exterior. Leather coats spot a return of shearling, now used amongst seam lines to exaggerate proportions and create contrast between the leather’s toughness and soft textures of shearling — again, an emphasis on intimacy. It is simple but inimitable, general but specific.
Without the thematic discursions and stylistic detours of past collections, Pre-Spring 2023 can be viewed as an example of how Matthieu Blazy intends to lead Bottega Veneta by rendering “hype” secondary. Instead, he shows how being genuine could be part of the charm. This sense of commitment to the Bottega Veneta experience extends even to its new lifetime warranty program for its bag offerings. The “Certificate of Craft” program was launched in November and offers customers complimentary services to refresh and repair their Bottega Veneta bags to ensure the longevity of their purchases. That applies just in time with every Pre-Spring 2023 bag purchase.
At the beginning of 2021, Bottega Veneta was at its most popular. The Italian luxury House became one of fashion’s true word-of-mouth successes — what used to be a name unbeknownst to the general public became known without ever needing to introduce itself. By the end of the year, they somehow became more difficult to define. Daniel Lee’s sudden departure at what felt like a time when things at the label were starting to make sense, followed with Matthieu Blazy’s promotion — the Belgian designer served as Daniel Lee’s right-hand man since 2020 — left many to wonder what might change.
With the breath of fresh air presented in Pre-Spring 2023, it is not that the Bottega Veneta defined by Daniel Lee, is starting to disappear. It is simply the result of slowing itself down, taking a step back to think about its future, what an Italian “Quiet Power” means to its new generation of customers,and where it will be in the next few decades. Right now, we would like to think of it as a retrofit led by Matthieu Blazy, where bits and pieces are improved to present an identity that is meant to last the same way a Bottega Veneta bag would one day be passed on to the next generation.
This article first appeared on Men’s Folio.
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