Editor's Pick, Style

The departure & arrival of Bottega Veneta

The departure & arrival of Bottega Veneta

Upon arrival at a new city early in the morning, you struggle to stay awake. There is exhaustion, even more so as the first gush of unfamiliar air brushes your cheeks as the airport’s arrival doors glide open. The temperature is warm, warmer than you expected. As you make your way into the city, the airport disappears into the distance as you look through the window where you are seated. Minute by minute, your heart rate anxiously blooms faster as you realise how far away from home you are. And therein lies the realisation that your journey — after months of planning and contemplation — has finally begun.

It is this exact feeling that opens the Bottega Veneta Summer ’24 show, a story of worldly voyages that takes fashion beyond the realms of simply just clothes. With an artistic manifesto that boils down to simplicity and technicality, the new collection unfolds a series of greats; creative director Matthieu Blazy is, after all, not one for stationary ambitions. But what sets it apart from previous iterations is that while the new collection carries on the tradition of employing movement as a core driver for his work, Summer ’24 sees a departure from the discarded passé of urban gestures and turns instead to grandeur ideas of movement — as wanderlust, voyages that we take to redeem our faith in ourselves, the people around us and the way we see the world.

Clues littered in its details narrate a story of self-discovery and like any self-care ritual, it begins by unravelling one’s fears. Black rompers and wool-tailored suits open through Looks 1 to 5 as unsuspecting Bottega-esque subjects, resembling what industry critics would argue to be “safe” — just as many have critiqued Blazy on his debut collection for the house. It would not be long before Look 6 unveiled the unpredictable: a seemingly ordinary black cocktail dress. If one looked closer, one would notice that its right shoulder strap was intentionally draped in a wayward, undone fashion. And with its leather banana-leaf-shaped heels, it creates a sense of “letting things go” — maybe the only thing holding you back from having the best time of your life is none other than yourself.

Coming right after is the same black romper that opened the show, this time on a male model, but paired with an enormously-sized travel duffle bag that is just about the model’s height. Inside the bag — and on many of the model’s hands from this point — are newspapers, notebooks and flower bouquets that add to the world-building. Thus, it is clear that there is no going back from here on now.

Silhouettes begin feeling airy and languid, morphing into a mixture of colours and textures that feel distorted but vibrant nonetheless. Randomly assembled knits (on Look 11), pants inflated to extreme proportions (on Look 41), wool coats, or dresses with tasselled ends (on Look 27, 28, 33 and 43) could not have been better allegories for freedom — or if it can be interpreted as artistic liberation. The worldly references ensue too, like the shipyard ropes imbued into jackets and bag straps (on look 30 and 46), which paints scenarios of vacation in Lake Como in Northern Italy or Sikome Lake in Calgary — places not many would chance upon easily in their lives, and thus, make for the perfect escapist dream.

At a certain point in the collection, one would realise that this voyage may be interpreted as a metaphor for his journey at Bottega Veneta thus far. After all, it is hard for a designer to transition from a successful predecessor — let alone become his own, when so much of the house’s contemporary resonance with the public is irreversibly linked to them. With no signs of diminishing returns, the intrinsically assembled parts of Summer ’24 show what Blazy is capable of — masterful pieces that push the boundaries of craft, let alone creativity.

Things pull back to the beginning as it closes, but with a twist. Of the self-exploration through voyages comes a wealth of knowledge and wisdom that one will bring back. The denim-effect leather jeans from his debut (look 54) make a return, while familiar and now house-codes tailoring, finishes things off with more layers, textures and colours. Even the bags return to sellable shapes and look better than before. This is where Bottega Veneta by Matthieu Blazy finds its place in the world, as though having reached an equilibrium. And Blazy understands that to grasp the enormity of his subjects, one must first acknowledge the smallest details. Like the world, the farther you can see, the smaller you will feel.