Bottega Veneta’s Matthieu Blazy takes artisanal craftsmanship in a new direction
When Blazy and Mulier took charge, respectively, of Bottega Veneta and Alaïa in 2021, the new roles brought new pressures to their life together. “Let’s say it’s not the easiest. Sometimes I don’t see him for three weeks or for a month,” says Mulier. “We’ve always worked together for each other’s goals, and it’s kind of strange that we achieved our dreams at the same time.” Both still worked long hours, too, but now the public’s — and the company’s — perception of success or failure depended on their names. They knew the issues. In 2016, Blazy and Mulier moved to New York to join Simons at Calvin Klein, where he had been hired as creative director. The label was a juggernaut, with a rapid turnover of collections; Blazy and Mulier designed piece after piece and helped launch its redesigned flagship, at 654 Madison Avenue.
In 2018, however, tension between Simons and the brand’s business leaders brought the project to an abrupt halt, and Blazy and Mulier, who had been enthusiastic about doing interesting and ambitious fashion work for an audience of mass, left not only disappointed but creatively demoralized. Blazy took time off, unsure if he should continue in the business. “I was really wondering: why do you like doing this job? Why did I start in this profession? He went to Los Angeles to visit Sterling Ruby and his wife, Melanie Schiff, who made clothes, and participated.
“The pleasure of simply manufacturing– just working on the clothes and the silhouette without any business ideas,” Blazy recalls, “really got me back on track.” What he needed, he realized, was to work for a brand where craftsmanship and quality were never out of sight; where the consumer engine was driven by innovation and seduction, not the retail gearbox. Bottega Veneta became his way back, and by the time he became creative director he knew his mission. He had seen how brands looking for in-groups could lose sight of the shore, so his label would keep one foot on tradition and the other on open experimentation: an artist’s path to the new. . He had seen how global commerce could fade into harmless indistinction, so he would play Bottega Veneta’s Italian roots.
“When I took over, I sat down with the team – designers, but also people in the business for 20 years – and I asked myself a simple question: ‘What is Bottega ?’ ” he says. “What is craftsmanship and where is it in the tradition? How to bring modernity? We did not talk about form. We did not talk about image . It was the feeling of the brand. Know where you started, he thought, and you could go anywhere.
In Milan, Blazy wakes up early and heads for the office, stopping with John John at the dog park on the way. He loves to walk (he can go weeks without getting in a car) and likes to smoke (Marlboro Golds), and busy sidewalks give him a hard time. He tries to be at his desk shortly after 8 a.m. – he works best in the morning – and usually doesn’t leave until 8 p.m. “At that time, my brain is burnt out,” he says. One day, he interrupts his work to meet me at the Bottega Veneta showroom in the shadow of the National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci, where his new clothes hang on carefully selected racks. “I like when clothes look more architectural – they have to look sexy on the hanger,” says Blazy, whose notion of retail appeal is very physical: an irresistible hint of desire that you feel when you hold the thing in your hand or see it rush. in front of you, not – its horror – flattened and filtered on Instagram.
Inside the space, models, many from the runway, trace L-shapes across a central hallway. Blazy finds himself unable to function in pure silence or solitude (“I never work from home – I can not,he says) and visibly enjoys the movement of it all, pausing mid-sentence to admire the flow of a dress accelerating along the center line. At La Cambre he learned to design in the round , and that’s how he always works: starting with a pile of interesting fabrics, studying the movement and feel of the pieces, and refining until each garment comes to life.
“If something gets overworked or doesn’t move, I get bored,” he tells me. “And if it changes too much – if it becomes someone else’s idea, or neither her nor mine – I’m like, Why are we doing this? I prefer to kill the idea.
This intuitive approach produces results that are both invaluable and unexpected. Blazy is known for setting patterns at unusual angles, replacing unorthodox fabrics, and cutting unconventional shapes that drape beautifully and naturalistically over the human body. “Clothes aren’t necessarily your first idea of what might be flattering,” says Collier. “And then they are, incredibly.”
As we walk through the showroom, Blazy pulls a bag from the shelf. “You see the craftsmanship of the master,” he says. ” He does not have seams.”