Precise, exacting, calibrated. That feels like the language of engineering rather than fashion - especially when the fashion we're talking about is Tomas Maier's Bottega Veneta. This is a house, after all, built on craft - handcraft at that. The company actually limits yearly production of its signature squiggly woven-leather cabat bag due to the limitations of its workers - rather than, say, getting a precise, exacting, calibrated machine to churn out a few thousand an hour.
But for all its handcraft, the Bottega Veneta look is never crafty (rarely a positive adjective when tossed-out amongst the fashion fraternity). For Autumn/Winter 2012 Maier simply polished it further than usual. The change was rung in those opening suits: the often relaxed, sometimes slouchy Bottega tailoring was twisted tight around the body. It wasn't restrictive, just perfectly fitting, like a second skin. Surface detail was added with abstract print, shades of wool carving out their own shapes around the body. Later, this was echoed in long, lean coats spliced with rubber, and sweaters with devore patterns pockmarking collars. In a season of suiting and booting, Maier seized upon the jean as his trouser of choice - although they were cut slim to the leg, streamlined against the form.
Streamlined. That's the word for it: Maier clung his silhouettes close to the body, eschewing shape in favour of surface. The shoes were even elongated: cuban heels and elongated toes offering a few extra inches of decorative space to explore (probably retailing on a private order only basis). In focussing on surface so thoroughly, Maier chose to examine texture rather than colour. The final dozen-or-so outfits were entirely rinsed - streamlined of colour, even, the running order repeated 'Nero' like a typo. Occasionally, 'Espresso' was substituted, but it took a sharper eye than mine to notice the difference. The fabrics however, were multiple, infinite even: laced cord trousers jarred with suede biker jackets, over cashmere sweaters, over flannel shirts, over nappa velvet and linen gabardine. There was the craft, the heartbeat of Bottega. Rather than a cold focus on the superficial, those surfaces were eminently tactile, and desireable too. It all added up to a collection you wanted to stroke, to feel, and ultimately, to own. Despite the veritable deluge of terribly saleable black suits across the Milanese catwalks, it's difficult to say that about many others.