Remember the Is It Cake? meme that dominated social media in summer 2020? Bottega Veneta has it beat. In fact, the Milanese luxury house's ingenious trompe l'oeil leather goods aren't just a good optical illusion but a personal favorite of mine since creative director Matthieu Blazy made his Bottega Veneta debut with its Fall/Winter 2022 collection.
Bottega Veneta's FW22 leather pieces look like normal cotton shirts and jeans, even when you get up close. Having witnessed them in-person, the effect is shocking: they look exactly like conventional clothes IRL, despite being made of soft lambskin.
Once you touch the garments, though, the illusion is revealed, but it doesn't make the achievement any less impressive or the clothing less attractive. If anything, exactly the opposite: it makes you appreciate the effect that much more.
For Spring/Summer 2023, Blazy's second collection for the house, Bottega Veneta doubled down on the illusionary leathers, devising brilliantly subversive argyle sweaters, plaid shirts, and creased chino pants that look all the world like thrifted basics from afar.
Detailed photographs hint at the painstaking printing process that makes the nubuck garments appear to be made of cloth though, even then, it's pretty tough to deduce the sublime reality from images alone.
It's so exciting to behold for the same reasons that the Is It Cake? phenomenon swept the world.
Presented with something so familiar, so utilitarian, it's pleasantly shocking to instead behold an adroit imitation. It tickles the brain to have the eye so gently hoodwinked.
Similar trickery emerges upon closer examination of a plush coat that looks all the world like its made of foxhide, breaking the self-imposed fur ban set by parent company Kering.
Nope — it's a realistic-looking fox print atop faux.
The collection was much more than Bottega Veneta flexing its admittedly impressive trompe l'oeil muscles.
There are sumptuous new bags that reinterpret BV's inimitable Intreccio weave technique, warped suits that affect the distorted silhouettes of Umberto Boccioni's sculptures, and exquisite embroidery that embodies what Bottega itself describes simply as "high sewing," to name but a few standouts.
"From the perverse banality of the everyday nubuck looks, to the eroticism of ultra-sophistication through tailoring, via the look of the bourgeois left of the past, to the souvenirs worn by a high-brow traveler," Blazy offered in a typically opaque statement. "The whole world in a small room."
It's a romantic notion but hardly an unfair one considering the expansiveness of the director's vision. But if I were asked to select a single element that best sums up Bottega's reformatted focus under Blazy, I'd have to admit that nothing quite epitomizes the artisanal panache of #NewNewBottega quite like those incredible printed clothes.