You may never look at denim quite the same way ever again. Tomas Maier has managed to take one of the world’s most casual and utilitarian fabrics and turn it into a luxury good. Looking through this collection, I’m almost surprised there wasn’t a country music soundtrack to go along with it. The basis for the majority of these looks is a time-honored, hard working aesthetic to which Maier has added sequins and detailing that yank the looks off the farm and bring them up town in style.
Bottega Veneta goes for the whole “casual chic” market with this spring/summer collection in a rather aggressive and sudden manner. There’s no easing into this look. Right off the bat we get a sugar almond-colored leotard under a dress-length knit sweater. This is one of those looks that, no matter how well it is done, I fully expect to see sweat stains. As earthy and casual as it may appear on the runway, this is a look that fails in real life. So, with that start, I wasn’t expecting much from this collection at all. Good thing there was plenty of espresso and coffee being passed around. Casual and sporty, at least these first several looks are likely to be comfortable, with stretch pants and knit tops in various shades of grey/blue. These didn’t feel at all like a luxury brand, though, and despite the comfort level when he sent a look down the runway that mirrored (NY Times street photographer) Bill Cunningham’s casual blue jacket, I was concerned Maier had gone too far. If one wants this look it can be found at much cheaper prices at the nearest big box store.
Then came the denim. Not in jeans or dungarees or cut off shorts, but in dresses and suits that were pleated and pressed, with silhouettes usually reserved for finer fabrics. Even where the seams and hems are left raw and frayed, there is still a formality to these looks that one is not accustomed to seeing in denim. When sequined flowers were added, in black and blue so as to not be overly conspicuous, what had been a poor man’s fabric suddenly crossed to the other side of the tracks. Late country crooner Porter Wagoner would have been proud to see denim and sequins brought together this way.
Pullover sweaters and gingham checks also get the upscale treatment so that only with the last few gowns does this feel like a collection that comes from Milan. A cashmere sweater vest, ruffles of lace, and dresses loosely belted at the waist have one foot on the prairie and the other on main street. Loose fitting with plenty of room, one could almost do manual labor in these clothes were they not so nicely refined.
As much fun as it (eventually) was to watch this spring/summer collection come down the runway, one has to wonder if this Bottega Veneta collection is serious fashion or merely a novelty to stand out from the crowd. Those who normally wear denim and gingham certainly won’t be able to afford these looks. Is Maier trying to make casual respectable or is he treating it as costume? Given some other casual lines we’ve seen this season, I’m going to assume Tomas is going for a look that wants that down-home comfort without giving up the more delicate styling. When denim and cotton become classy, though, where does one go next?
Photo credit: Guillame Roujas