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Between the intrecciato: The Bottega Veneta atelier in Montebello Vicentino
words & photography Shini Park

Above: a rooftop sanctuary for employers

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Luxury is a point of view, that is more about what you hide than what you show
-Tomas Maier

Our arrival at Bottega Veneta’s atelier on the outskirts of Vicenza is veiled in perhaps the thickest morning fog I’d seen on that side of 2016. The Veneto region is reportedly a stickler for drama, this is undeniable, a certain pair of star-cross’d lovers can attest to this. Just the night before, I’d practically made love to a plate of ravioli over a glass of Pinot Grigio in our hotel villa atop a valley, which in its low-season stupor could as well have been my very own Castello. As we peel off the groggy rush-hour autostrade onto a private road that leads up to Montebello Vicentino, I realise we indeed are being treated to a saga of sorts.

The driveway is of stone gravel – with an uncanny similarity that of pebble beaches of Dorset, I note mentally – that coils around a pristinely manicured stretch of grass. Ahead, an unassuming 18th Century villa, in an equally unobtrusive nougat-y texture and hue, posing as a canvas to the feathered shadows cast by the trees in the pearly sunlight. This is not the prologue that I had predicted from the brand’s economic victory and brand status with Tomas Maier at the helm. I wouldn’t be lying if I say I’d half expected a statue of Maier in a ring of perpetual fireworks. There is not a single decorative gargoyle, nor a gleaming logo on a plaque. In a sense, the grandeur is purely in Palladian nature: in the single impressive structure that greets us, strutting dominance in symmetry and organisation. As all great stories go, the good stuff is discreetly hidden in the seams.

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The cafeteria furniture is composed of 100% recycled plastic, where the tables transform into benches for conference needs.

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The company catchphrase “When Your Own Initials Are Enough” is printed on a wall, standing sentry at the reception of glass and Venetian terrazzo marble. PAUSE for a small confession – I’m usually quite intimidated at this point in the appointment, it’s sort of the same sensation you get when you try sneaking into a club’s VIP lounge you know you clearly don’t belong in. I can verify that each of the A Closer Look articles start off with a little bit of pee escaping me from nervous jitters. But here it’s different, there is a ‘no B-S’ air about the atelier, nothing but a steadfast dedication to the pursuit of fine-quality materials, extraordinary craftsmanship, contemporary functionality and innovative design – the four pillars instituted for the brand by Tomas Maier that consequently introduced a new era in luxury.

“Something simple is always more complicated,” Maier believes, and he is nothing if not an absolutist. His method of expression? Collaboration. There is an unusual and inspired bond between artisan and designer (300+ faculty members, 100 of which are highly-skilled artisans), between Maier and the atelier, and even between the atelier and the land. Little do I know that the atelier receives its juice via 12,900 sq ft of solar panels, an underground reservoir curbs water wastage by 40%, and restoration and construction had all been done with sustainable materials and local labour. To the untrained eye, the high-tech panel on the wall is a thermostat with pictures. To LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification board, the atelier is worthy of the Platinum grade, the first building in the fashion and luxury sector to ever receive. Alas, this is the very essence of Bottega Veneta under Tomas Maier: luxury rooted in responsibility and deliberate artistry.

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A series of labs experiment physical and chemical durability of the label’s signature leathers (after all, a bag must withstand the blustering cold of Siberia as well as humidity levels in Singapore).

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One large-sized Cabat is composed of approximately 100 “fettucce” (1.6m long), equivalent to 12 skins, and the combined effort of two skilled craftsmen over two working days.

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I always like making things simple. A sweater and shirt, a shirt and a pair of pants: this is what I like. It’s simple, but of course it’s incredibly sophisticated.
- Tomas Maier

The design process is equally thorough, and even to this untrained eye it is visible through the ‘vitrine’ that is the villa’s annexe (previously a barn), swathed in natural (glorious Italian of course) light, as we shuffle through the corridors. We’re treated to a collage of creativity and craftsmanship as we pan by stations where prototypes for new designs are magicked under practised hands of highly skilled artisans, as well as eternal classics such as the Lock bag and the unadorned, perennially popular Cabat bag. As a hobby knitter/crafter, it’s hard not to revel at the precisely engineered simplicity is carried out by a pair (or two, in the case of the Cabat) of hands.

In the heart of this all, is the Intrecciato, the leather weaving technique that has come to define the house, much like Rembrandt is remembered for signature use of light, and Manet for his colour sense. Everything is about the product, and the client. The brand marks its 50th anniversary in 2016, 15 years with Maier at the helm, now an apparent understanding that the two are firmly intertwined, like intrecciato. I’m reminded of the anniversary show in Milan just a week past – my first Bottega Veneta show – starring the inimitable Lauren Hutton that had ended in jubilation and a standing ovation (perhaps even tears shed) for Maier and his team.

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The ‘archive’ rooms, is a mini private museum filled with a collection of Knot bags and Cabats, that celebrate the brand’s artisanal proficiency.

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As I turn to take a last look of the villa it clicks, the impeccable yet impassive façade that greets guests and workers at Montebello Vicentino encompasses everything Maier is about. “Luxury is a point of view, that is more about what you hide than what you show”.

Park & Cube was a guest of Bottega Veneta.

Lauren Hutton (toting the very same BV clutch that she carried in American Gigolo), closes the show with Gigi Hadid

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Floral print-cami – Topshop. Sunglasses – Celine. Flower garland – Topshop

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Hat + Dress - Topshop

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Top – Topshop, Skirt – Kenzo. Clutch – Kurt Geiger

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Look 1 (Crop-top): Linen crop-tee, Coulottes – Topshop. Rope belt – DIY. Bracelet – Saught.
Look 2 (Floral patchwork Dress):   Dress, straw boater hat – Topshop. Bag – Bottega Veneta. Heels – Zara.
Look 3 (Maxi-skirt):  Printed strappy-cami – Topshop. Basket-weave skirt, Tiger bracelet – c/o Kenzo. Clutch - Kurt Geiger. Loafers – Hudson. Leather bracelet – COS

The classic British Summer is here – hot, muggy, air-just-shy-of-armpit-consistency, one cloud away from November degrees. I’m not complaining though, at least not on Thursdays and Fridays. See, I’m trying out a new career path where I now professionally complain part-time and the rest of the week I focus on freelance weather forecasting, because apparently in this country you don’t need a particular degree to read the weather. Here’s the secret: a rusty slot machine at the BBC does the job for you – the reels groan a bit and a series of icons forecast the weather. Today I played with a few pieces from the new Topshop Reclaim to Wear collection, in which disregarded prints from the previous seasons got upcycled into airy, summery pieces. The slots pooped out a perfect weather for this: Fog – Cloud- Sun, 28 degrees, humidity 2,000%; there also may or may not have been a Tsunami looming but unsure as the icon for it is a Bucket of Water. They’ve been using the machine since the 70’s after every single barometer/thermometer in the country quit and left for Spain. I’ll leave for Spain sooner or later, I predict.

Thank you Charlie for helping with the shots! 

DIY Scarf-print kaftan dress, a collaboration project with Styleslicker

Head on here to see the complete tutorial

Kaftan dress – Park & Cube x Styleslicker DIY. Nude shoes – Zara. Bag – Bottega Veneta. Watch – GUESS Rose gold

I realised the only time Kit and I join hands to collaborate is when we’re both hunched over her bowl of phô fishing out red meat so I can gobble it up like a bear. We’re also DIY enthusiasts and happen to share the opinion that if you need glue-gun to attach fabric onto fabric then it’s not DIY – it’s pre-school craft, and don’t get us started with stapling shit to shit. She’s a trained pattern cutter with ninja scissor skills, I’m a webdesigner sensitive to misaligned pixel – in a nutshell we’re both just anal and you wouldn’t want us as mothers or wives (sorry hubz). So we decided to team up to do a few DIY projects that might be educating in terms of garment construction and produce end-results that you might actually wear more than once. Remember this H&M panther scarf? Turns out there’s a lot more ways to transform it with just a few tools at home – for this one you don’t even need a sewing machine – check out the tutorial here to make your own scarf-print kaftan dress!

Check back often or tune in for the next one!

Tokyo, last day

Stella McCartney Falabella pouch

Rose-gold watch, GUESS.

Shoes, Alexander Wang via Vestiaire Collective. Watch, GUESS.

Floral top – Zara. Belt – LV via Vestiaire Collective. Shorts – DIY cropped black jeans from Zara. Sheer balloon skirt – ASOS. Shoes – Alexander Wang via Vestiaire Collective. Bag- Bottega Veneta.

Last day of Tokyo: 9,000 windows and berries for breakfast; ¥8,150 left in my pocket to buy presents for hubby, ¥500 left after a trip to Comme des Garcons, 20 minutes to meet a Japanese friend for coffee at the BVLGARI cafe in Shinjuku, 15 minutes to shop in a twelve-storey Uniqlo (impossibru), 5 new types of sushi tasted at lunch, 4 new favourite types of sushi, 2 minutes fitting the Prada flagship store designed by Herzog and de Meuron into sight while passing by in mini-bus, 1.5 cats seen in total (0.5 = tail and a spotted leg), 1 minute pondering what the Japanese word is for ‘STOP’  as the airport car passes by a Issey Miyake Pleats Please, 0% eagerness to enter homebound plane.

That about sums it up! Thank you Perrier-Jouët once again for a wonderful experience.

Uniqlooks August: One item, three looks – Ankle length trousers

Look 1:  Black silk trench coat, CK gift from mum. Leather crop-top old Topshop (bought in vintage store). Trousers, Uniqlo tuck tapered trousers. Shoes, Kurt Geiger Elsie. Mini-clutch, Falabella c/o Stella McCartney
Look 2: Jersey top, Zara. Trousers, Uniqlo tuck tapered trousers. Heels, Pierre Hardy for GAP. Bag, Bottega Veneta. Boyfriend watch, Sekonda. Glasses, YesStyle
Look 3: Cap, I Love Ugly. Silk top, Carin Wester via Heilee. Clutch, Kit’s Marc by Marc Jacobs pouch.  Trousers, Uniqlo tuck tapered trousers. Heels, ASOS Sienna

I would call this mostly ‘Uniqazillian ways to communicate impending toilet run’, but there’s a bit of ‘If I stand upright and look into the camera I WILL DIE  A SHAMED BLOGGERS DEATH‘  in the mix too. In fashion blogging bootcamp I was taught to renounce the habit that my mother so earnestly enforced in my blooming years – stand up straight, look into the camera and show a sliver of teeth – a tactic which usually ensured that the 24 (or 36, if on holiday/birthday party) snaps will be worth its money. For example, the Park family photo albums from 1990 to 2005 is just eyeballs. Then in 2008 I crawled through mud under barbed wire and struggled over walls made out of logs and to learn a new habit that will win us the Blogger badge, namely the ‘I think I need to pee’ pose (pretzel legs), ‘My lover in the sunset horizon’ pose, and ‘Is the the floor flirting with me’ pose – all three of which you can find above. Alternatively it’s a self confidence issue… one will never know. Here we have a pair of dusty pink tuck-tapered ankle-length trousers for the August instalment of Uniqlooks – the material is light and satin-y, which makes it a perfect summer-autumn transition piece for those countries that don’t have permanent PMS for a climate.