Tomas Maier has lightened up: There's a spring in the step of his girls and a lot of hair-flicking going on (theirs, not his). The silhouette—nipped at the waist with a wide silver-embellished velvet belt swirling to a flared skirt above antiqued-leather T-strap stilettoes—added to the summery swing of a collection of mixed influences, from the bold strokes of American color-field painting to a luxury-filtered version of Mexicana.

Maier is a born modernist, interested in function and fanatical about detail, and not the kind of designer to be dogmatic about his look. "I see all of this as a suggestion," he said. "Because you have to do it in your own way." The pieces he's producing for Bottega Veneta—tobacco-brown blazers, tawny suede duster coats, and each one of the complex bags—need to be picked up, stroked, and inspected inside and out to be fully appreciated. That makes all the whisking past of Bottega's bags—in lemon velvet, exotic reptile, and tortoise shell, or a variation of the house woven leather in bright flashes of color—a frustrating business. And that's the dilemma.

Maier isn't working in a run-of-the-mill ready-to-wear house that needs to shout to be heard. The steep upward trajectory of the company's sales figures is attributable to a new, discreet pattern of buying among women who collect precious things in a personal way—not least because they haven't been part of the brash overexposure of regular runway news-making. The value of Bottega Veneta can only be truly expressed in a close-up, tactile presentation. Can Maier invent a better way to do his work justice?