July 28 2014

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Can Tomas Maier Bring A Dose Of Bottega Calm To The Hectic World Wide Web?


For the relaunch of Bottega Veneta’s Web site and online shop, creative director Tomas Maier wanted to establish more than a URL; he wanted to bring a dose of Bottega’s understated calm and rich luxury online. Those are two qualities not always associated with the World Wide Web, but Maier has brought good company to help: The new site launches alongside the new Fall 2010 ad campaign shot by Robert Longo. The American photographer is the latest art-world heavy to work with BV, following Sam Taylor-Wood, Stephen Shore, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, and, most recently, Nan Goldin; one of the aims of the label’s site is to archive its collaborations (and, with exclusive video content like the Longo video below, to give viewers a peek behind the scenes of those collabs’ creation). Here, Maier tells about loving Longo and the tricky business of taking intrecciato online.

What was the concept behind the relaunched Bottega Veneta Web site? Did you have specific goals in terms of telling the brand story?
The brand has grown significantly in the past few years, and we want our digital presence to keep up with that growth. An important part of Bottega Veneta’s identity is contemporary functionality. To me, that means we need to reach and service our customers where they are most comfortable. For many people, that’s online.

The strengths of e-commerce are pretty obvious, at this point—convenience, in particular, and anonymity and breadth of selection, for example. But these aren’t necessarily the values I associate with a “luxury” experience. Did you struggle with that?
It was important to me that we showcase the visual impact of the product, highlight the amazing and intricate craftsmanship that makes a Bottega Veneta bag or necklace or dress so unique. So, every product can be viewed fullscreen in multiple views. I was also concerned with evoking a sense of luxury and calm—two qualities you rarely find on the Web. The design of the site achieves this through a rich, organic-looking palette that is very Bottega Veneta, as well as in tools that appear and disappear unobtrusively. Finally, there is the ease of the site. When you come to a Bottega Veneta store, you feel cared for. When you visit our Web site, we do everything in our power to make you feel welcome, comfortable, and looked after. You know, one thing we have always tried to do when designing our stores is convey the brand sensibility while respecting the environment in which we operate. If we open in a historic building, we design a store that respects the architecture of the building. The same is true of the Web site. We worked to understand how our brand could best work on the Web.

One aspect of shopping online, and it’s an insurmountable issue, is that you can’t actually touch the merchandise. How are you getting around that? Are there e-ways to encourage a visceral connection between consumer and product?
In addition to the product itself, which is the heart of Bottega Veneta’s brand identity, there is content that tells the stories behind our products. We have a series called “Hand of the Artisan,” which has video and pictures detailing the making of each type of product, for example. And there’s also the “Art of Collaboration” series that offers a behind-the-scenes look at the ad campaigns we create with an incredible roster of art photographers, as well as videos about other interesting partnerships in which we are involved. Creative collaboration is central to Bottega Veneta’s mission, and this section of the Web site functions like an art gallery of our most compelling projects.

Speaking of collaborating… As you say, you’ve sought out a number of fine art photographers to shoot the Bottega Veneta campaigns. Why? What does Nan Goldin bring to the Spring ’10 campaign, for instance, that you wouldn’t have gotten out of Respected Fashion Photographer X?
Well, Nan’s work is intensely personal, with a sincere and unusual focus on the individual. I also admire the formal beauty of her work, the distinctive sense of color and composition she brings to a photograph without ever seeming to impose her aesthetic on her subject.

The Fall ’10 campaign was shot by Robert Longo. What made him the right photographer this time?
This collection, with its dark palette and emphasis on line and movement, seemed well suited to his graphic approach. Also, this is the first time we are doing separate advertising for the men’s and women’s collections, and I thought Robert would be the ideal artist to bring the two sides of the brand together. I’m very pleased with the campaign—the images are quite extraordinary. They convey the theme of the season in a very dynamic and precise way.

Do you imagine there’s a different Bottega Veneta customer online? Are you reaching people who wouldn’t feel like they could walk into the brick-and-mortar store?
Bottega Veneta is a niche brand offering a very special kind of product with limited availability. Yet we are known around the world, and by people who have never set foot in a Bottega Veneta store, even though we don’t advertise as much as many of the other luxury brands. That is mostly thanks to the Web. I love that people who might not be near a store, or who are young and just starting to discover their own style, can learn about Bottega Veneta on the Web.

Photo: Robert Longo/Courtesy of Bottega Veneta