“I’m a part-time New Yorker,” Tomas Maier reminded members of the press in a preview wear the day before his Bottega Veneta show in the American fashion capital. “They’re bold and outgoing but need seclusion.” Perhaps the latter was the feeling he was trying to convey in the very intimate situation staged in a blackened-out American Stock Exchange. Guests crammed their way inside the cavernous space, bottlenecking around a podium featuring a mise en scène of a Manhattan penthouse designed by Scott Pask. A who’s-who of models and sons-and-daughters-of would inhabit these furniture arrangements as they finished their strides around the stage, getting into the party spirit. At times, though, dinner table conversation looked a little slow.
Performance art isn’t an everyday occurrence at the normally so restrained Bottega Veneta. This was a special occasion: a one-off relocation to New York in aid of the opening of the Italian brand’s sprawling new flagship store at 740 Madison Avenue, whose retro-sleek modernist décor was echoed in the theatre that unfolded at this show. All the furniture was from the Bottega Veneta home line. Appropriately, it opened with a couple of gold and red silk ‘pajamas’, as they’d have it Stateside, for those cosmopolitan lounge lizards, who simply throw a coat over their nightwear to walk the dog around the block. Thanks to TV and film we all speak New York; it’s a well-known stereotype and one that Maier went to town on, imbuing it with Bottega Veneta’s Italian savoir-faire.
“Looking around the city is very informative to me: the colours, the skyline, all the beautiful buildings. Every architect left something here to make a statement,” he said. Unsurprisingly, he based the collection on New York and the structures of iron and metalwork that laid the foundation to said skyline. He talked about lifts and railings, cubes and bricks, and three-dimensional qualities. It was expressed in an idea of panelling pieces together through geometric shapes, but also in the rusty colours that painted the collection in autumnal hues. “Everything that looks simple is always extremely complicated,” Maier noted, and in the spectacle of things it was a fact worth remembering.
Indeed, Maier is a part-time New Yorker. His studio is located here, and Bottega Veneta has had ties to the city since it became one of the first Italian houses to set up shop in the concrete jungle in 1972. Experiencing his collection in the corporate wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am atmosphere of New York Fashion Week, it kind of made sense. This place is full of the professional power players, who find in Bottega Veneta the kind of luxe status-symbol business-wear that makes their day, and a few polite velvet floor-sweepers for those all-important fundraisers, too. These ladies and gentlemen are most definitely a lot older than Maier’s hip cast would suggest, but then they probably have more to talk about over dinner, too.
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