Some designers are music geeks. Others get off on art. Bottega Veneta designer Tomas Maier's obsession is fabric. He can riff on Japanese mills' superiority to those of France and Italy, and follow that with an explanation of why some polyester is more expensive than silk. A showroom appointment is an education, but what really impresses is what Maier thinks up to do with his beloved fabrics.

In the case of a strapless cocktail number made from neon pink and black silk jacquard, guipure lace, and rubberized chiffon topped with a laminated film, it's really no exaggeration to say that he created a material that didn't exist before. As worked as the surface of that party frock was, it didn't look overwrought, and that's another great thing about a Maier dress. Discussing a pair of color-blocked sheaths, he said, "It's about putting the color in the right place to make a woman feel good. That's what we're here to do." Also lovely: an aubergine dress with a single fluttery ruffle, inset with leather, that extended from the left hem up and around the neck to the right shoulder.

The SAG and Golden Globe nominations were announced this week. Maier has never courted Hollywood the way other designers have, much to his credit, and nothing about his long-sleeve black dress brushed with gold leaf said "red carpet." Nonetheless, it would strike the precise not-trying-too-hard, but-still-madly-chic note that, if you ask us, actresses should be going for.