You can get into trouble by reading too much into a designer's motivation, but sometimes the urge is too damn irresistible. Tomas Maier's collection today had a feel for hit-the-road freedom that made you wonder whether it was some kind of wish fulfillment on the designer's part. Though he is notoriously obsessive about every single detail in the burgeoning Bottega empire, maybe even he has moments where he feels that all he's doing is building a better mousetrap. Of course, that's wildly speculative. And anyway, however Maier himself feels about freedom, the way the idea was conveyed today made for a strong, seductive collection.
The word he used was ease, which translated into a dozen variations on any garment that men pull over their heads, just about the easiest way to get dressed. So there were echoes of sailor's sweater, fisherman's knit, ethnic tunic, and so on. The key fabric was suede, layered light as cotton in long-over-longer overshirts or plush as velvet in a pullover shirt jacket. Lacing was used rather than buttons. One suede tunic had fringing, a frontier scout flourish. There was some romance in that idea, as there was in fringed booties that could have been nicked from Tonto, an original free spirit. Another top laced at the neck like a sailor shirt but zipped all the way down the back, a suggestively feminine detail that bordered on the fetishistic in this context.
But Maier is a past master of that kind of twist. In the same vein, he used what he called "women's fabrics"—silky, sensuous chiffons, organzas, and crepes. When tailoring inserted itself into the parade of unstructured fluidity, one suit was veiled in organza for an inside-out effect. A jacket, sweater, and shirt matched in gauzy layers of floral print. Even the most straightforward jackets were printed with a vestigial, feminine floral, as elusive as a memory. The mix of masculine and feminine, the earthy color palette, the suedes, the lacing, and the hint of hippie gave a good-time West Coast-circa-1970's vibe to the collection that jibed with the personal-freedom subtext. And the soundtrack? Harry Nilsson's "Everybody's Talkin'," with its poignant lyric "I'm goin' where the sun keeps shinin'." Right behind you, Tomas.