How Matthieu Blazy is recharging the brand with artisanship at the fore
There are moments in fashion when a behind-the-scenes player or deputy steps into the front line of a brand and takes your breath away: think of Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen or Wes Gordon at Carolina Herrera. Now, Matthieu Blazy is doing just that at Bottega Veneta, recalibrating the Italian brand with precision, imagination and multi layered depth. “Bottega Veneta was created by a collective of artisans,” said Blazy who is determined to bring expressive innovation to the fore.
A spotlight on the new AW collection shines on plunge-neck nappa leather wide-skirted dresses with swishing fringe hems; on sequined lace liquid dresses that deserve their own cabaret; on the new Sardine bag featuring a sculpted metal work handle and on the shoe of the moment, a chunky penny loafer in glossy camel patent leather. These standout pieces signal a sense of hyper luxury designed to walk along the street as well as shimmer on the dance floor.
On accepting the position in 2021, following Daniel Lee’s sudden departure, he sat down with the team and asked a very straightforward question “What is Bottega?” Literally Bottega means workshop in Italian and the name befits the artisan-led accessories company that Vittorio and Laura Moltedo set up in Padua in the late 1970s and which, via those iconic intrecciato woven leather clutch bags and a fabulous store in New York, was to become the byword in understated glamour in the following decades. Ready-to-wear was launched by Brit stars, Giles Deacon, and Stuart Vevers (now heading up Coach) and later taken over by the quiet magic of Thomas Maier. Brands that are worthy of being reborn have fascinating histories and it’s how you re-examine that heritage in the light of today that counts towards the success (or not) of a reinvention.
“It is an idea of craft in motion. It is style over fashion in its timelessness. That is part of its quiet power.”
Blazy is driven by the silhouette and by substance, achieved by luxurious materiality and a pyrotechnic understanding of geometry and pattern making. He is also fixated on the dialogue that Bottega can have with the wider cultural world. The current AW campaign was shot in Milan, Belgium, and Italy in often non-descript locales to show off the versatility of the designs. “It is an idea of craft in motion. It is style over fashion in its timelessness. That is part of its quiet power,” says the 38-year-old.
Paris-born Blazy has a long track history in fashion, working with his now-partner Pieter Mulier (now heading up Azzedine Alaia) in Raf Simon’s team at Calvin Klein and previously at Martin Margiela and Celine. From an early age, as son of an art expert father and historian mother, he was exposed to the aesthetic world, yet had a strict religious and military schooling before enrolling at La Cambre, a design academy in Brussels where he discovered his instinctive sense of experimentation. The seamless handwoven Kalimero bag, made to sling over your shoulder, has an insouciance that is born out of innovation. The sculptural tailoring, including cape-backed blouson jackets, have a presence without heaviness. And those swishing fringes, marabou feather trims and delicate crystal embroideries offer up a freewheeling sense of play.
He and Mulier observe a strict ‘don’t talk about work’ policy to preserve a healthy relationship. They prefer to escape into dog walking, painting and weekend retreats that replenish the hard work of fashion. That lifestyle infuses into the collections: his first sneaker is a pillow-soled design and, for Spring Summer, await faded denims and lumberjack shirts crafted from patterned leather that Kate Moss took for a spin on the runway. Those shirts will be one piece worth being waitlisted for.