Bottega Veneta covers up and gets tough

Despite the sunshine the mood is dark and slightly sombre here in Milan, what with the designers’ collective urge to cover up and get tough.

Talk about a volte face from last season’s sugary sweetness! For powder pink, read black. For airy chiffons, read bullet-proof wool.

At Bottega Veneta, the brand which has become a byword for refined luxury, creative director Tomas Maier said in his show notes: ‘The look is covered up and the materials are virtually impenetrable, yet the effect is physically powerful.’ And it was. Maier has a way of doing ‘powerful’ without shouting; contracting the fashion zeitgeist and finessing it to the height of good taste, that’s what he does.

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He started out with black bonded wool - lean coats and jackets, some of which had been pinned with a fist sized antique agate, rock crystal and pearl brooch. Then, as the cuts became more complex, the colours deepened – maroon, Tourmaline blue, forest green, plum. One dress appeared to be made of vertically slashed and frayed ribbons of silk. There was a kind of front-peplum, as defined as corrugated iron – but as light as, well, silk - that protruded over the front of lean pencil skirts, but worn with a simple black knit, the effect was sculptural, never over-thought or clumsy. Another day dress was an abstract patchwork of ‘burnt sun multicolour velvet’. And all the while, black leather gauntlets crept up the arms so that only the barest slice of skin could be seen.

He could have been speaking for most of the designers in Milan when he said backstage that he had ‘taken a very direct approach to the body’ – body contouring dresses and a meaner, leaner beauty being the thing here. But why now? He shrugged: ‘One collection leads to another,’ he said cryptically. ‘It’s an evolution.’

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