Intrecciato is the new black: the story of Bottega Veneta
Among the brands that have received more hype in the last few years of fashion weeks and are still making us thrilled with anticipation every new season, Bottega Veneta is for sure on the podium. But it hasn’t always been like that: starting as a rare Italian pearl of craftsmanship and quiet luxury, it took the brand years of highs and lows to go from the wardrobes of the exclusive rich people to getting the eye of the variegated fashion audience of today.
It all started in 1966, when Michele Taddei and Renzo Zengiaro decided to give life to a brand of high-end leather goods, opening a store in Vicenza and so calling it “Bottega Veneta”. The idea was of making accessories, such as bags and eyeglasses, and the philosophy to follow was one of quality over showing off: the refined leather was enough to show people the quality of Bottega and that only the two initials of it on the inside of the pieces were enough for the brand to be recognized. “When your own initials are enough” they used to say.
Along with the quiet luxury philosophy, another iconic trait of Bottega, the intrecciato leather technique, was born in these years: out of necessity, as the sewing machines were made for clothes and not for leather, Taddei and Zengiaro decided to use thin leather and create with it a pattern that would become a distinguishable trait of the brand.
The first international Bottega Veneta store was opened in 1972 in New York. But unfortunately, it did not gain the curiosity and fame that the two fathers wanted for it: people were too caught up in logomania, and only rich women and visionaries, like Andy Warhol, who even filmed a video for Bottega, and Jackie Kennedy, wore the pieces. Bottega Veneta was synonymous with sophistication, expert craftsmanship, but it was not enough. And so, throughout the years Bottega slowly started to fade out of the scene, reaching the first defeat at the end of the 1970s.
It is thanks to Warhol’s secretary indeed that Bottega Veneta was kept alive. In the 1980s Laura Braggion-Moltedo, ex-wife of Zengiaro, became the creative director of Bottega Veneta, focusing more on the accessories but also launching a bigger ready-to-wear collection. During the ‘90s she was helped by Giles Deacon but, no matter his amazing capabilities in fashion, he was not suited for the brand. Bottega was still a brand, but famous was not an adjective to use yet.
The turning point: Thomas Maier
It was only in 2001 that fortune rang Bottega’s bell: Kering bought the brand, hoping to give it a new twist. The designated creative director was the visionary Thomas Maier, considered the real father of Bottega’s aesthetic.
Maier's strategy was to revive Bottega’s stealth wealth allure, so he decided to stop the ready-to-wear collections, that came back only in 2005, and focus on accessories, as so to show Bottega’s true strength though the leather manufacturing. Maier was so proud of the uniqueness of the brand’s materials that in 2006 he also decided to open a leather crafting class to show fashion students the beauty of the process.
What Maier introduced in Bottega was not just his new philosophy of materials focus and quite luxury, but also jewelry, perfumes and the iconic Le Cabat bag, an intrecciato leather tote bag coming in different sizes and shades: black, white, brown, pastel colors and bright green. It is Maier, in fact, that started to use for the bags the green that today we can easily recognize as and call Bottega’s green.
Parakeet green: Daniel Lee
When in 2018 Maier suddenly resigned, all eyes at Kering were on Daniel Lee. 32 years old, British, a degree at Central Saint Martins and a resume of internships in maisons such as Margiela, DKNY and Celine, where he worked under Phoebe Philo, a designer that will deeply inspire Lee’s future collection at Bottega.
Inspired by Maier, who he honored with the large use of green in his 2021 collections, Lee also wanted to bring something new to Bottega, a new aesthetic that could appeal to a fashion audience that wanted extravaganza. It is thanks to Lee’s work as a creative director that Bottega became a “mainstream” brand: if the work of Maier had it to become a niche brand of quality leather goods, what Lee did was bring to Bottega a bigger audience, made of many young people approaching fashion and finding themselves in the mixture of tradition and newness.
The quality of the materials and the tailoring of the silhouettes were still key points on the runaways, but Lee also designed today iconic pieces that have futuristic, recognizable shapes. First came the Horsebit belt, an extravagant leather good with a chunky gold horsebit-like hole where to tie the strings in a knot. Talking of knots, the Knot golden collection came with bags with a knot on top to close them, intrecciato mules with golden knotted heels, the knot belts. The Lug and Puddle boots that we have seen everywhere, practical and classy and funny, have reached the wardrobes of many fashion lovers thanks to Lee. Three of the most searched bags on the internet, the Pouch, the Jodie and the Cassette bags, were designed by Lee as well. A lot of these accessories come with an intrecciato pattern, both in little stripes or exaggerated ones.
Another of Lee’s merits is the no-social media strategy: Bottega does not own, in fact, any social media profiles. In 2021, he closed all the social media accounts of Bottega Veneta: pictures of the runaways could only be seen thanks to journals and Vogue Runway, while campaigns and collection details are always posted on @newbottega, the un-official Instagram page of the brand, followed by millions of fans. Maybe this is one of the biggest secrets of the success of Bottega: a brand that has a lot of hype around it but does not look for it through social media. It is the clothes that speak for themselves!
Same goes for the people that are close to Bottega: while many other brands count on the help of influencers and brand ambassadors, Bottega doesn’t. Since Lee became creative director, he created a bond with famous celebrities that are really interested in the brand, its history and its manufacturing, along with Lee’s visionary ideas. ASAP Rocky and Rihanna, one of the most famous fashion couples right now, have been big fans of Lee’s work. Along with another rapper, Travis Scott, ASAP Rocky has modeled for Bottega’s fanzines, a sophisticated escamotage that Lee has used to substitute social media.
Art and fashion: Matthieu Blazy
Despite the big success reached by Bottega Veneta thanks to Daniel Lee, the two parted ways in 2022: Lee went to Burberry in September, while his place was taken by Matthieu Blazy. Already design director for Bottega Veneta since 2020, he entered the brand with a resume that was no less huge than Lee’s for such a young designer: he interned at Margiela, Celine and Raf Simons, first being his protégé and now one of his closest friends.
Along with his fashion education and capabilities of breaking the schemes, Blazy’s strength comes from his love for art. Son of both art experts, Blazy got from his parents his love for every form of art, from painting to sculptures, and every decade of it. Still, he seems to prefer contemporary pieces. He has made Bottega Veneta a patronage of the arts.
It started with the campaign for the S2023 collection, where we saw Kate Moss seated on a chair designed by Gaetano Pesce, an Italian sculptor, designer and architect. The collaboration of Bottega Veneta with Pesce did not stop there: during the Salone del Mobile in Milano, last September 2022, the store of Bottega was decorated like a tunnel with pieces made by Pesce, along with Bottega bags designed together with the Italian artist: they called it “Vieni a Vedere”. The two limited edition bags, My Dear Mountains and My Dear Prairies, took inspiration both from Bottega’s tradition, enhancing the siluettes and materials, and Pesce’s memories of Italian and American mountains, where he used to live and is living now. The silk-screen painting of the bags, done by Pesce himself, recalls the colors that he usually uses for his art, recreating on bags the richness of colors of a landscape.
Another collaboration done by Bottega took place just two weeks ago in Seoul, South-Korea, where the brand sponsored the exhibition “Willow drum oriole” by the Korean artist Kang Suki, hosted at Leeum Samsung Museum of Art. It is not a case that Kim Namjoon, better known as RM, leader of the K-Pop band BTS, was present at the opening of the exhibition as Bottega's first, and for now only, brand ambassador. Announced in March 2023 by Blazy himself on Instagram, it was no surprise: with his love for art, always sharing pics of the exhibitions he goes to around the world, and his appreciation for timeless, modest clothes, Namjoon is the perfect face to represent Bottega’s philosophy: everything, on a personal and collective scale, is connected, music, art, clothes, they are all part of culture and each inspires the other.
What to expect this Milan Fashion Week?
On September 23rd, in Milan, Bottega Veneta will host the runaway for the Spring 2024 collection. What to expect from Blazy’s creative mind?
The Fall 2023 collection was a success. Again inspired by art, Blazy brought together along the runaway the statues of roman bronzes and the pieces of the Futurist sculptor Umberto Boccioni. It was a way to celebrate Italian history without rhetoric, as well as a way to show the influences that Blazy took inspiration from while designing the clothes: bodies in movements, silhouettes of different shapes, the way that clothes accompany us in everyday activities of every kind. Looking at clothes materials as an artist would look at a piece of clay or marble, Blazy took on himself the legacy of Bottega’s high quality leather and used it to give life to every piece. Here’s the trompe l’eoil, as Vogue called it, of Bottega: you may think that jeans were made of denim, shirts of cotton, socks of wool, but truth is they were all made of the same leather of the bags and boots, the Nabuk leather that Bottega shaves and kneads and adapts.
Quality and practicality, unique and timelessness, these are the keywords that best describe Bottega’s runaway, called by Blazy a Carnival:
“A parade: the alchemy of the streets lays in the differences (between people); who will you meet? What waits around the corner? What will amaze you? It’s the surprise of the encounter that matters. […] It’s a place (the streets) where everyone belongs, where there is absolutely no hierarchy.”
[cover credits go to @giuli_romanelli]