"I don't like making clothes for red-carpet events," Tomas Maier said shortly after his impressive show today. "I like real life." He had demonstrated as much a few minutes earlier. With the noise of street traffic and building construction on Michel Gaubert's soundtrack, the models strode the Bottega Veneta runway wearing sporty, airy clothes in an understated, neutral palette. Their hair was damp and loose, as if they'd just emerged from the shower and hadn't bothered with the blow-dryer, and on their feet were flat leather sandals or peep-toe suede booties. The unmistakable message for Spring: ease.

The buoyancy of the opening group—blue-black A-line tank dresses spliced at the shoulders or back with breezy mesh— reminded the crowd that Maier has many years of experience designing swimwear. The roomy, to-the-floor, color-blocked jersey dresses that followed had a similar liquid appeal. The finale dresses—and as advertised, these were dresses, not gowns—were more constructed, but the way the silk was lightly tacked at the seams meant that these, too, floated on the body. The one low point: a couple of numbers in a trapezoidal print weighed down by a surfeit of excess fabric.

There was tailoring, as well, but it was soft and weightless. The power suits that had the fashion set raving last season were replaced by relaxed two-piecers. Slouchy in some places and hugging the models in others, they almost looked as if they'd gone through the wash and been turned inside out. The jackets of Maier's shorts suits, meanwhile, were crisp but cut away to expose a flash of back (Milan's hot zone for Spring).

As for that signature Bottega Veneta luxe, you saw it in a spare yet indulgent matte crocodile bandeau and vest, and, of course, in the intrecciato bags, some of which appeared to be woven not just with leather or another exotic skin, but also with feathers. Those were an apt visual metaphor for the lightness of Maier's clothes. Effortless is the wrong word; creating such offhand, everyday beauty requires a great deal of exacting work.