MILAN, Italy — The nature boy of Bottega Veneta’s Spring was barely a memory in Tomas Maier’s new collection. In a radical move away from tree-huggery, he opted for an entirely urban situation, its roots in concrete, rather than the rich loam of Mother Earth. Bottega Veneta’s authority in luxury’s upper strata is all but unassailable, Maier’s more perverse flights of fashion fancy aside, but here he decided to reassert that authority — initially at least — with deluxe tailoring. No sparing the cashmere, nor the volume on coats that had the capaciousness of kimonos. And also an unsparing attitude to compromise. Maier went long with his suits, elongating the silhouette with a monochrome colour palette, emphasising the elongation with skinny, floor-trailing scarves. And topping the lot with a tipped fedora which, given this week’s news, irresistibly echoed Bowie as The Man Who Fell to Earth.
The elegance of that particular image was a reminder that Maier’s sensibility is cinematic. As his most recent book Bottega Veneta: Art of Collaboration made clear, each collection tells a distinct story and, however evolutionary the world might wish his proposals to be, they are actually contradictory to the point of perversity. Maier used his women’s Pre-Fall collection as punctuation in his latest offering for men, and when Edie Campbell advanced down the catwalk in a shearling coat with a wild trim of fur, it cast a revealing light on everything around it.
Yes, Maier opened with precise suits, but as the show progressed, the precision yielded to the broken-in look that is the designer’s fashion ideal. The lustrousness of velvet suits could easily have been the result of wear and tear. Maier’s feeling for leather trousers that zipped up a centre seam was especially striking, given the plangent counterpoint of Daniel Hope’s string driven thing on the soundtrack. The romance of the music, the hard edge of the outfit: maybe Maier’s ideal isn’t so much broken-in as broken. It’s been noted before that tension is crucial to the impact of his collections. Does that tension eventually snap? And will I be there to see it?