Anyone who still imagines fashion remains willfully oblivious to current events would probably be surprised to learn that Tomas Maier was inspired by 2011's Arab Spring, when he conceived the latest men's collection for Bottega Veneta. The Arab world's pursuit of democracy got him thinking about the integration of different sartorial traditions in a way that was about genuine synthesis, rather than banal ethnic influences. By the time they reached the catwalk, Maier's creative impulses had been well and truly sublimated. A casual overview might suggest that relatively conventional two-piece tailoring ruled (even if the suits were crumpled). Still, a residue of the Great Elsewhere lingered in the unplaceability of a number of the clothes, neither Middle East nor Midwest, but with an undertow of both. The buttoned-up-tight mandarin-collared jackets and matching pants had a military mien—add sunglasses, a general's cap, and a hundred kilos, and you'd have yourself a best-dressed dictator. That control was contrasted with a shopping list of fabric treatments: washing, creasing, over-printing, over-dyeing, dip-dyeing. Checks were bleared like they'd been hand-blocked. A tweed was really a printed cotton. Just a fashion illusion, but here it poked as much as it pleased.
Maier never really lets go. Even the peculiar denim and leather breakout he allowed himself today was pinpoint-precise. Will BV men be thinking of the Arab Spring when they're shopping this time next year? Unlikely. But Maier's abstract inspiration actually did yield a hint of out of control that his customers may find refreshing come Spring 2012.