This season, we saw just about the last thing we expected on the Bottega Veneta catwalk: the sixties. Yes, we've seen it half-a-dozen times already in Milan alone, never mind factoring in New York and London, but Tomas Maier usually rinses his collection of all extraneous influences, focussing on the cut and construction, as well as the quality of workmanship, rather than trying to link his outfits together under any overarching theme. This time, from beehive to tippy-tap T-bar sandals, we were pre-lunar landing, and just about post-Courreges. Think Mrs Robinson from 'The Graduate', early Jackie Onassis, or even Jacqueline Susann's 'Valley Of The Dolls' and you'll have a great idea of what Maier showed. In fact, you'll know exactly what he showed - skirts were easy and above the knee, tailoring came predominantly in Chanel-alike textured boucle, there was even a section of seductive, come-hither lace-overlaid baby doll dresses. They're a fashion cliche, but on the Bottega Veneta catwalk, they were a head-spinner.
It wasn't bad, it was just different - for Maier, at least. It remains to be seen if it's what his customers will go to him for: you get the feeling that the Bottega Veneta woman quite probably wore that sixties look the first time around - and certainly sported a variation during its insistent, incessant revivals over the past fifteen years. Whether she will really buy it again is the question, especially when the nubby tweedy coats with matching shift dresses made the twenty-something models look twenty years older.
The lace looks, oddly enough, were the most successful, stripes of black lace loosely tacked over an overpainted, overprinted shirt dress or twisted into a short sheath, while a silky white jacket lined with black chiffon fluttering in the breeze over a raw-edged skirt looked easy and effortlessly chic. The same could not be said of the floor-length strapless closing numbers, flapping with hefty panes of fabric that seemed to be dragging the models down under their own weight. Perhaps these were stabs at the Oscar roster that Bottega Veneta has had some success with of late. If so, they'll be staying in the showroom.
Regardless of Maier's inspirations, and some of the dodgier design elements (could any woman wear a sludgy-green paint-speckled cardigan and capacious almost-matching print-flecked frock in sludge-green without looking like an overworked and underpaid fifty-something social worker?), the workmanship throughout was astounding. As were the materials - those 'print's were painstakingly overpainted, as was much of the silk, with lace seeming to cast a shadow on the garments beneath. As for the bags, a single satchel mixed acid-rinsed silk velvet, hand-painted python, and washed ostrich. That fusion that is only possible with the painstaking handcraft and knowledge Bottega Veneta has at its disposal. And indeed, rather than a nondescript woollen suit, that's just the sort of thing you come to the label to aching buy.