Bottega Veneta Spring 2010

One of the most indelible images from the spring 2010 collections was the finale of the Bottega Veneta show. A trio of gowns floated down the catwalk in a cloud of color so luminous it seemed to suck the light from the room. The fabric—a synthetic chiffonproduced in Japan—is one of the lightest known to man, so fine, in fact, that it can only be hand-cut with lasers. Science aside, it was the translucent beauty of the dresses that drew a gasp from the audience. And one can only imagine how satisfying that would be for Tomas Maier, the man behind the wheel at Bottega, the Italian label whose subtlety is an antidote to the excess of an era. Born in Germany on the edge of the Black Forest, and now a resident for at least half the year in Palm Beach, Florida, Maier is something of a paradox—a laconic sensualist. For nine years before Bottega, he was a designer at Herm├Ęs, where Jean-Louis Dumas imparted the formula that the 52-year-old Maier lives by: passion and patience. In other words, everything takes time. So for the past eight years, Maier has slowly, steadily reconfigured Bottega as the idiosyncratic apogee of 21st-century affluence. The label’s original modest motto—“When your own initials are enough”—is perfectly in tune with the designer’s own yen to keep himself as invisible as possible.