The Bottega Veneta show began so earnestly—a man in a gray flannel suit—that it immediately sparked a vision of mid-century Americana. And that initial impression never really let up, because the collection was layered with so many subtle references to the era. The intense graphicism of the scribble stitch on a cream leather blouson or the freehand paint stripes on a cotton tunic wouldn't have looked out of place on the cover of an album from Blue Note, the legendary jazz label. (The finger-poppin' jazzbo soundtrack certainly helped there.) In fact, jazzy cool defined the linear crispness of Tomas Maier's tailoring. But the boxy, wide-sleeved shirts were fresh off the backs of a 1950s bowling league, and windowpane-checked slacks and rollneck knits were all about Rat Pack leisure.

All of this was, so far, in keeping with Maier's ongoing exploration of the iconography of the American male. But there was something more interesting, more typically twisted, going on. Maier turned his new collection into a meditation on the process of design. He talked about the way a designer starts with a pencil and paper, makes a sketch, erases, redraws. Almost every item was defined in some way by what looked like a tailor's chalk marks, delineating the outline of a pocket, a lapel. In some cases, the shape of the pocket had been changed radically, but the old outline remained. It was an intriguing way to underscore the fact that, for Maier, Bottega Veneta is still quite literally a work in progress.