By now, a sort of informal, retrospective trunk show could be visiting your local Bottega Veneta. It’s a celebration of brand history only true insiders will appreciate.
For as still largely unknown as Bottega is to the masses, it is not without a perennial core, reinterpreted each season, year to year. For BV, that is the last half century since its mid-60s founding. It is young compared to houses like Louis Vuitton and Hermès, but has far more history than say, Dolce & Gabbana or Jil Sander.
In the same way that Chanel’s iconic and timeless design is the bouclé suit/jacket, sans logo, the Bottega Veneta Knot is a simple and infinitely malleable evening clutch that has been a staple of the brand since long before Kering and Tomas Maier. Like a chameleon against the backdrop of its environment, there are standard and long versions, ones of satin, snake, and crocodile; others are made of metal mesh and precious gems. But always with a knotted metal clasp.
I was invited to the event thanks to a friendly sales associate named Yu, from whom I purchased several pairs of shoes and a wallet. Luisa came with me and for the evening, we mingled among the glow of a million dollars worth of woven leather, exotic skins, and Dom Perignon!
The Knot is a woman’s bag, but I wasn’t deterred from appreciating the imaginative ways that its rounded rectangle shape has been tinkered with. A mind like that of Mr. Maier sees no limits on the sorts of materials and colors that would appeal, especially for a bag intended only for evenings.
A “standard” version of the Knot is made of satin, in pale yellow, pink, blue, etc., with snake trim around the edges. Those start around €1,400.
Intrecciato woven leather, Bottega’s most recognizable pattern and texture, comes in around €1,700.
Beyond, you’ll find every flavor of full crocodile (€3,400), ayers snake (€1,800), and metal mesh (€2,800). This season, there are also versions in woven velvet.
No matter the year or season, you can order a custom Knot from a selection of shiny and matte crocodile or ostrich skins. These swatch booklets are thick with animal hide and (apparently) worth something like €8,000, as exotic skins, even the samples, are bought by the square centimeter.
All that money doesn’t seemingly buy much, but the Knot is not a thing of logic, but of emotion. It’s bright colors and visceral textures are hair-raising, and you can’t fathom the suppleness of the intrecciato (or interior lined in lambskin) until you hold it yourself.
At the end, the closure clicks shut just…so.
Over the years, special and limited editions have been made of ebony wood, tooled lambskin and painted metallic calf, adorned with tassels and chains, and paired with animal motifs (butterflies—another of Bottega’s themes) or mirrors. In all there were 120 or so on display, some guarded by security and others behind plexiglass.
This retrospective was as much about genuine artistry and craft as it was about fashion, and that is true for much of what the brand produces, which are items of beauty that transcend seasonal trends.
You can imagine how we felt, students of the business, yes, but voyeurs in another world. We people-watched that night like you wouldn’t believe. It was a parade of Milan’s upper crust, smiling and kissing each other, the store manager, and corporate leaders, and clinking champagne, but hardly touching the finger foods.
After a day of lessons and a class field trip, Luisa and I made our best effort at effortless chic, though I was sweaty and tired and of course, drank more than I should’ve.
It was a blast nonetheless. Yu ushered us through the entire show, and then answered a thousand questions we had about the brand, the Knot, and all the other products the store sells. I was already a fan, but Luisa is a new devotee.
As the luxury industry aligns its focus toward a more longitudinal view of fashion, which requires meaning and history to drive sales, icons like the Knot and in turn, brands like Bottega Veneta, will see their popularity increase.
Accessories made of woven leather may seem fragile, but in effect the material is much stronger when interlaced than as a single sheet. My wallet from November 2013 has held up very well, though I can’t speak for entire bags made of intrecciato.
Like Chanel, many have imitated but none have matched the creativity or quality of the original, and nothing has dampened the demand for authentic handiwork. If you have the opportunity to view the show or invest in an evening classic, the Bottega Veneta Knot is a worthy option, free from the whims that would render it stale after some use.
Instead, it becomes a signature of taste and classic style, as it has been for the last fifty years…