Tomas Maier built his new Bottega Veneta collection around the extremes of the male "uniform": utilitywear and eveningwear. In Maier's world, the Maytag Man hangs his coveralls next to a sumptuous set of tails, and the designer treated both with equal attention to the exquisite detail that characterizes his work at BV. One of his reference points was the series of photographs Irving Penn took of London tradesmen in the late forties. "I loved their elegance," Maier said after the show. It was a quality he himself captured in white coveralls a housepainter might wear, which he paired with a tailored navy topcoat. This hybrid notion also emerged in the utilitarian seaming and patch pockets of a gray flannel jacket, and maybe even in the black patent moccasins that were shown with the tuxes in place of evening shoes.
Maier described his key proportion as "Charlie Chaplin," a trim tailored top over baggy pants (the sturdy denims were practically pooling on the floor). As the show progressed from the function of workwear to the form of tux or tails, this exaggerated relationship became more acute: Suit jackets in classic pinstripe, windowpane check, and flannel had shoulders that were peak bordering on pagoda. And yet, even when coupled with the full trousers, it was less Chaplin than an icon of unambiguous masculinity like Robert Mitchum that the clothes put one in mind of, an impression compounded by the solid, heavy-soled shoes. We need heroesand Maier's found one for us.