MILAN, Italy — While Tomas Maier insisted that combining his men’s and women’s shows for Bottega Veneta has had no effect on his design process — he claimed they were always designed at the same time anyway — there was something about the simultaneous presentation of the two lines early on Saturday morning that tweaked BV’s curious psychology under Maier’s near-16-year tutelage.
Maier has always loved a film noir heroine, and here, broad of shoulder, fitted of waist, curved of hip, chiseled of cheekbone, there were plenty of them, in hyper-tailored suits or draped-sleeve, lurex-shot silk dresses.
With her casual French twist updo, Kiki Willems could have been noir’s baby Jezebel. Bette Davis could scarcely have done it better. And while Willems herself is probably not much older than the male models she shared Maier’s catwalk with, she looked like she could eat them alive. That was noir too — the seductress luring the callow male to perdition.
It threw the balance of the show off, the women looking so strong, the men looking like dressed-up college boys/cadets, oversize bowties, big woolly socks, almost like Maier wanted incongruity as a male keynote so that his women would look all the more powerful. And that they did.
It was illuminating to reflect back to the other night, and Miuccia Prada’s ambiguous feelings about glamour's relationship with women. Maier clearly had no such reservations. He weaponised glamour, from the opening riding outfits (shades of Faye Dunaway in Chinatown) to yeti-scaled extravaganzas of goat hair, to the closing evening dress, Binx Walton in a floor-sweeping torrent of silver and silk, caught up at the butt in a bow. Sublime!
Given that he is a guru of luxury, it’s a perfect paradox that Maier is also a master of denial. “We don’t need much,” he observed after his show, in his typically laconic way. “But when we do, it had better be special.” The specialness of BV has long been concentrated in its fabrics, often dense and unplaceable. Maier is also a master of lighting effects. Here, studs and crystals gleamed darkly.
There has been a steady thrum of doom-and-gloom bulletins surrounding BV, but then Joan Smalls sashayed down the runway in a cape and a column of moonlight and you wondered if Tomas Maier isn’t just too damn grown-up for this crazy, mixed-up world of fashion. The name of his game is the dame. Bring her back.