Wool. Is there a fabric less sexy? Maybe not, but that didn't stop Bottega Veneta's Tomas Maier from going for it this season. Not many designers have the imagination combined with the skill to turn the plain material into something so utterly un-plain. Maier focused on print last season; this exercise in cut and drape was something of a reaction to the romance of that, he said backstage. "I was into wool, and using it in different ways, washing it, bonding it, or felting it to create print." Thus fixated, he sculpted the sleeves of one coat, exposing the seams, and layered and draped the neckline of another like a flower. On dresses, he created volume with different kinds of pleats. If that sounds dry, it wasn't. There was nothing minimal about the trio of slim ivory wool sheaths the designer embroidered with multicolor silks to create the trompe l'oeil prints he was talking about. Another looker of a dress was built up at the hips with a flaring peplum.

In the end, Maier used more than just wool, but he treated duchesse satin with the same sculptural hand. An asymmetrical folded and tucked top in saffron paired with full, cropped pants balanced ease and polish—it would make a great going-out outfit. In keeping with that mood, Maier limited his evening options to little black cocktail dresses. The most novel of the bunch was actually a creamy shade of wool flannel densely embroidered in undulating vertical lines of lacquered black raffia. The frock showcased his obsessive attention to detail, yet still came off as effortless. In sum, this wasn't a showstopper of a collection like last season's, but it qualified as a success on its own terms.