Given fashion’s obsession with oversizing – back ache-including handbags, stomping platform sandals, and bug-like sunglasses - it was only a matter of time before someone turned to the shoulder pad. And who would have thought that that person would be Tomas Maier, the dab hand behind refined label Bottega Veneta? Aptly, given that Maier’s focus has always been discrete luxury, these were epaulettes with a difference, not eighties Dynasty monstrosities – although he did throw in an embellished blouse that looked a bit Joan-Collins–cum-provincial-housewife – but rather understated figure enhancing pads on ultra-feminine forties tea dresses.
This season Maier was inspired by the varying aspects of womanhood – hence the deliberate attempts throughout the collection to clash hard and soft. A modest vintage-look frock, which could have been straight out of The Edge of Love, was matched with a practical briefcase (dubbed the Studio bag), while clunky Westwood-worthy shoes were given a whimsical edge with butterfly adornments and retro sheer black tights. Fluid fabrics – silk jersey, silk chiffon and crepe de chine – were toughened with hefty embellishments, nodding to the seemingly unstoppable trend kicked off by Prada and Louis Vuitton.
The collection was a lesson in the new modesty, a symbol of that (excuse the awful phrase) ‘post-feminism’ power dressing that combines girlish softness with strength and structure, something that this decade’s designers have been obsessed with. It was a fair concept, though one that seems a little dated. Didn’t we all come round to the idea that a woman can be both attractive and authoritative a long while back? An aspect of the collection that was more in tune to the zeitgeist was the nod to wartime dressing with those floral tea dresses - appropriate given the current austere economic climate (not that the honeyed and moneyed BV customer will ever have to worry about rationing).
The multitude of considerations competing in this collection should have made it look confused. It didn’t. Quite the opposite in fact - each look tied together seamlessly, largely due to the fact that the focus was placed entirely on dresses (no trousers and just one coat). While the ‘complex ideas’ that Maier intended to put across may have fell a little flat, the garments on show were eye-wateringly gorgeous, and that – rather than gender politics – will ensure their success.