Many designers in Milan are cogitating about power women—that tricky, oft revisited subject that, unless approached with a questioning intelligence, produces nothing more original than yet another clichéd eighties skirtsuit. But there was nothing stereotypical about Tomas Maier's approach to the matter for Bottega Veneta. He put his thoughts forward in a bold and intense exploration that began with the uncompromising sight of two women in black leather pantsuits—an opener for a strangely paced series of chapters that, unusually in these days of one-message fashion shows, offered a huge sweep of intriguing options.
The modernity was in the span of it. This was a collection that had narrow, businesslike tailoring at one end; fluid jersey dresses and sporty parkas in the middle; and then concluded in a blast of candy pink silk. There was a lot to take in that was subtle yet strong—especially in daywear, and in Maier's mastery of fluid asymmetries honed to practical use rather than art for art's sake. The variety—semi-draped dresses, all-in-ones, A-line T-shirt tunics, two brilliantly simple trouser suits, and a couple of teddy-bear coats (a breaking trend)—only added to the overall sense that Maier gets the breadth of women's lives.
There was a weirdly pleasing darkness in the undercurrent, and that edged it away from feeling like a service-driven "career" collection. Some of that came from the oddly special molded-wedge boots, or the bags with an iridescent sheen of color inspired by beetle wings, or later the scarabs dangling from necklaces and earrings.
True, there was an odd moment too many (buckle-on leather carapace tops for cocktail?), but the full sweep of the evening options more than made up for that. This was an outstanding piece of work that moved forward into ideas fashion too rarely has the wit to touch.