Designer Tomas Maier quits Bottega Veneta

German designer Tomas Maier, who also designs under his own name, joined Bottega Veneta in 2001, and helped it gain better footing.
German designer Tomas Maier, who also designs under his own name, joined Bottega Veneta in 2001, and helped it gain better footing. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (NYTimes) - German designer Tomas Maier, the longtime creative director of Bottega Veneta, the Kering-owned fashion and accessories label, is leaving the company, Kering announced on Wednesday (June 13).

Maier, who also designs under his own name, joined Bottega Veneta in 2001, and helped it gain better footing. (The company was founded in Vicenza, in Italy's Veneto region, in 1966, as a leather goods brand.)

Maier, spare in both ornamentation and explanation, pared back the fashionable excesses of Bottega Veneta's preceding iteration. In the age of the It bag, which flourished in the 1990s as a status symbol, Maier designed bags, like the best-selling Cabat, that whispered their provenance rather than shouted it with labels.

As the brand's motto put it, Bottega Veneta is for "When your own initials are enough." Connoisseurs recognized its woven "intrecciato" leather; anyone else may easily be mystified.

"It's largely due to Tomas' high-level creative demands that Bottega Veneta became the house it is today," said a statement from Mr François-Henri Pinault, the chairman and chief executive officer of Kering. "He put it back on the luxury scene and made it an undisputed reference. With his creative vision, he magnificently showcased the expertise of the house's artisans. I am deeply grateful to him and I personally thank him for the work he accomplished, and for the exceptional success he helped to achieve."

Kering acquired Bottega Veneta in 2001, when Kering was known as Gucci Group. Maier was appointed that same year.

Maier oversaw everything, including the design of the products, the architecture of the stores and the brand's image - "anything," as he told The New Yorker for a 2011 profile, "that involves creative".

He enjoyed significant success. In 2012, Bottega Veneta exceeded US$1 billion (S$1.3 million) in revenues for the first time. Revenues since have fluctuated, and Bottega Veneta was edged out of the second-place slot in Kering's luxury portfolio by the re-energized Saint Laurent.

In 2017, Bottega Veneta reported more than €1.17 billion (S$1.84 billion) in revenue (about US$1.38 billion at current exchange rates), putting it third in revenue among Kering's luxury portfolio, which also includes Balenciagaand Alexander McQueen.

Maier designed ready-to-wear collections as well as accessories and furniture for Bottega Veneta - Naomi Watts, Amal Clooney and Kristin Scott Thomas have all worn it within the last 12 months - but its strongest business is in leather goods, which account for 85 per cent of its revenues.

Even in a time of constant designer departures and arrivals, Maier had retained his place at Bottega Veneta. In an age of three-year contracts, he has been with the label for 17 years.

His departure comes at a moment of restless churn. At Lanvin and Nina Ricci, in-house design studios are at the helm, between creative directors; Clare Waight Keller is newly installed at Givenchy and Natacha Ramsay-Levi at Chloé; Riccardo Tisci has yet to show his first collection for Burberry and Hedi Slimane his for Céline.

Bottega Veneta itself has been working to increase visibility this year. In February, it opened its largest store in the world, on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, and celebrated by bringing its runway show from Milan to New York Fashion Week.

Maier's departure is effective immediately. Kering declined to comment on the reasons for his departure other than referring to Pinault's statement, and said that a successor would be named "in due course."

Kering, which had invested in Maier's own brand - the two entered into what they called a "joint venture to develop" Tomas Maier in 2013 - also declined to comment on whether Maier's departure from Bottega Veneta would affect this partnership.

Under the aegis of his own label, which has stores in New York, Maier recently designed a collection for Uniqlo, the Japanese retailer. The collection is projected to last a single season - unusual for Uniqlo, which often has continuing relationships.

"I don't want to be anybody's staple," Maier told The New York Times about the collection last month. "I am my own person."