Fashion’s landscape is constantly evolving. With the advent of forces like the digital age and climate change, fashion is charting previously unforeseen territory. Sustainable design is an increasingly common topic of concern, while a point of unrest for many seasoned fashion houses remains how to maintain a sense of luxury and craftsmanship in the era of knock-offs and fast fashion. Bottega Veneta’s Tomas Maier, for one, isn’t fazed. In fact, the Creative Director seems to have carved out a unique niche for his brand: one which involves paying homage to Bottega Veneta’s lengthy history and giving back to the artisans that helped build its image, while chugging along full-speed ahead.
[#AD-BV30#]In part 1 and part 2 of an ongoing conversation with Bottega Veneta’s revered Creative Director, Maier touched on past challenges and a new partnership with Bergdorf Goodman, respectively. Here, in the 3rd installment, Maier discusses the role of sustainable design with regard to Bottega Veneta’s present and future. Maier also muses on Bottega Veneta’s lifeblood—its ties to Italian artisanship (a constantly evolving relationship thanks in large part to a Bottega Veneta-sponsored education program in Vicenza that is helping groom a new generation of artisans), as well as the lessons he’s learned in his 8 years and counting spent at Bottega Veneta’s helm. A look at what’s to come from one of the leading creative forces in fashion and a brand that has proven what’s old can in fact be new again.
What is Bottega Veneta’s relationship to sustainable design?
Bottega Veneta products are produced by hand using traditional techniques and natural materials. Production is strictly limited and each item is designed to last for a long time. So on a relative scale, our design and manufacturing are highly sustainable. Of course, there is more we can do, especially in terms of transportation and energy consumption. And we will.
How did the artisan school in Vicenza come about?
As Bottega Veneta began to grow, the company realized that the skilled artisans we rely on were increasingly hard to find. So, we approached the Scuola d’Arte e Mestieri di Vicenza, an old, prestigious school in Vicenza, about starting a school to train people in leatherworking. Essentially, the school is an investment in the future of Bottega Veneta and in the heritage and culture of the Veneto, where leather craftsmanship has been a tradition for centuries.
Why is maintaining a relationship with these artisans especially important to the brand, as well as to you personally?
Bottega Veneta sells handcrafted luxury goods—we couldn’t do that without skilled artisans. For me, it’s a privilege to work closely with the people who actually make our products. It’s much more rewarding than sending the designs off to a factory.
What is the key to preserving a brand aesthetic that is simultaneously classic and fresh?
In my experience, it requires a combination of innovation and discipline. It probably helps to have a slightly contrary nature.
What are the biggest lessons you have learned from your work at Bottega Veneta?
I’ve learned to trust my instincts, to be (a little) more patient, and to accept that my flight will never leave on time.
How do you envision the brand’s future?
I see Bottega Veneta growing in new directions, some obvious, others less expected. The heart and soul of Bottega Veneta will always be superlative leather goods, but there are many other areas where the brand’s sensibility is a natural fit.
What legacy do you hope to leave through your work at Bottega Veneta?
I don’t really think in those terms, but certainly my aim is to establish Bottega Veneta as a unique luxury brand with an unsurpassed reputation for integrity. On a broader level, I hope that our success will play a part in restoring the value of handcraftsmanship and helping to preserve artisanal traditions and techniques.
There is always more to do.