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From ‘denim’ crafted out of thinly shaved trompe l’oeil leather to racerback tank tops, there is a meeting of egalitarian elegance and sophisticated coolness to be found at Matthieu Blazy’s Bottega Veneta. Idioms which were not only reaffirmed but reinforced with a vengeance by the Creative Director underneath the roof of the Fabbrica Orobia for the brand’s Fall/Winter 2023 runway presentation.

The show began with a chorus of murmurs, murmurs which grew into whispers and whispers which ascended into an orchestra of idiosyncratic conversations, punctuated by spontaneous whistles. All thrumming drumbeats which transported observers away from the quiet stillness of the Orobia along with the transcendental statues forged by Umberto Boccioni which it temporarily held, and instead to the energetic landscape of a parade in motion, one with flashing lights, pounding feet and where playboys, priests, sleepwalkers and pedestrians came together with sirens of ancient seas.

It was the opening look which augmented this destination as being the carnival, a place where these sights, sounds and smells all come together in a sensory cacophony. A model stepped out onto the Stracciatella imitating runway wearing a pure-white translucent slip dress, its folds and creases clinging to her silhouette, paired with intricately, knitted boots and a braided leather, Sardine bag reworked with glass Murano handles. With a flushed complexion, and hair cascading wildly, uncontrollably, down her back. She appeared not only to have been stomping, powerfully down pavements all day, but as one of the traveller spirits whom Blazy, ambitions to conjure through his designs.

“I was excited about the idea of the show in Italy; a procession an unusual carnival, a crowd of people from anywhere and everywhere who somehow fit together and walk in the same direction” Blazy said of this collection, “I wanted to be inspired by what makes people come together in a place without hierarchy and where everyone is invited.”

As the energetic tune meandered on, she was followed by a multitude of spectacularly, heterogeneous personalities, “characters and creatures” as worded by the Creative Director, personas to whom the sidewalk is synonymous and ones which exist solely within the fantastical realm of the carnival. Observers of the show were introduced to aquatic performers, conjured through fishtail imitating skirts with rolled waistbands, financiers summoned through sharply tailored silhouettes, and dancers envisaged through full-skirted cocktail dresses, twisted and twined around the body, with the material gathered by a artisanal ceramic hoop. Chimeric creatures too, emerged, magicked into being through the “cut and craftsmanship of the garments, composing different codes of volume and techniques thanks to thick yarn, Jacquard or Intreccio turned into a new type of leather, in the form of a cascade of feathers and scales.”

This was also a presentation which saw Bottega Veneta continue to focus on pushing the limitations of leather, and after the phenomenal introduction of a pair of trompe l’oeil ‘denim’ leather trousers on the Spring/Summer 2023 ready-to-wear runway, the possibilities for the Italian brand are endless, and the spirit of experimentation endures. For Fall/Winter 2023, the material’s appearance is both transpicuous and at times, even more ambiguous, think leather trench coats brocaded with croc or ostrich patterns, and woven leather thigh-high boots, and then envisage a pinstriped Oxford shirt, knitted shoes, boxer shorts or a grey flannel overshirt. Ultimately, such a feat has the power to turn the idea of ‘luxury’ on its head, by igniting the debate of what defines a piece of clothing as being luxurious, is it its material? Its silhouette? Its overall appearance? After all, this was a show which proved that all of these can be deceptive.

Sabrina Roman

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