To borrow the lingo of the fashion industry, one of next season's key 'stories' is already shaping up to be luxury sportswear. It's certainly the idea that's preoccupying Tomas Maier, and hence his Spring/Summer 2011 Bottega Veneta collection. In fact, in Bottega's case, make that luxer than luxe - it's the tradition this house is built on, after all. But, for a house that prides itself on the idea that your own initials are enough, it must be noted that Maier's take on luxury is subtler than any other on the Milanese schedule. This collection was no exception: leather and alligator abounded, jewel-coloured in minimal but perfectly-crafted belts and bags, while shorts were cut from silky nappa and buttery suede so soft it looked like moleskin. There was indeed a lot of second-guessing throughout the show: was that zippered pistachio jacket a shiny coated-cotton, or precious patent leather? How about the wet-look trenches in black and milky-white? Only referring to the notes could confirm (and the outerwear, incidentally, came in both).
Packing a menswear collection with luxury materials can often make it feel overwrought, overbearing and hence often unwearable. But Maier's hyper-luxury was tempered with a range of wool-gabardine suits and trench-coats pre-washed and rumpled for a casual air. There was a stylish feel of America Gigolo to these, a sense of nonchalant elegance that pretty much every designer since Armani has been trying to capture. Maier made them his own with a mouthwatering colour palette of claret, olive and sapphire blue, adding spice to an otherwise neutral-dominated show. It's interesting to see that reflections of Maier's characteristic softy-softly to luxury are popping up all over the Milanese schedule - perhaps a reflection that Bottega's sales and profits have continued to rise even in the downturn (for this collection, they launched a beyond-high end wristwatch, the BVX, to ram home their confidence). A selection of ultra-desirable crocodile brothel-creepers was about as blatant as it got, and even then the hefty utility of the shape managed to undermine the ostentation of the skin. It's not often a four-figure price-tag for a pair of shoes really feels worth it - these, no doubt, are a notable exception.