photography by ROBBIE FIMMANO
fashion by BILL MULLEN
written by STEVE GARBARINO
Bottega Veneta creative director Tomas Maier isn’t a household name by most measures, and would probably prefer to keep it that way. For a menswear designer in 2014, this is actually quite refreshing. Trained in the luxury fashion trenches of France and Italy, he took the reins of the then flagging label in 2001, and has spent the decade and change since putting his militantly minimalist stamp on everything he touches, from suits and leather goods to furniture and fragrances. He is a designer of few words and even fewer flourishes, and clearly a master of the work/life balance, shuttling between Bottega’s offices in Milan and his remote tropical compound in Palm Beach County, where he’s lived since 1999. He answered our queries as he crossed the Atlantic.
STEVE GARBARINO: As a younger man, was there an epiphany, something that shifted your worldview and put you on your present path?
TOMAS MAIER: I was always drawn to design in some capacity, and though I wouldn’t say it was an epiphany, the decision to pursue fashion instead of architecture was definitely the biggest fork in the road in terms of where I am today.
What is the first thing you remember making with your own hands?
Moss houses in the woods while playing as a child in Germany.
What’s the last object, artwork, or building you saw that moved you?
Bottega Veneta’s new atelier in Montebello Vicentino. After years of planning, renovating, and restoring this magnificent eighteenth-century villa, seeing our artisans at work was a moment I will never forget. I was as deeply touched by the realization of this project as I was thirteen years ago when I arrived at Bottega and saw the work of our artisans in Vicenza for the first time.
What’s your ideal of a well-dressed man?He has a uniquely personal and confident sense of style. He’s an individual—understated, incon-spicuous, and at ease.
Is there such a thing as being too understated? Understatement is different than being underdressed. You can go to a black-tie gala and still look understated. You can be too underdressed, but I don’t think you can be too understated.
You spoke in the past about men wanting clothes that perform a certain function. Why do you think that is?
It’s based on a need and desire to make purchases that aren’t just superfluous or extravagant; not buying for the sake of buying. It’s about acquiring a luxury product with a high level of use and pragmatism. We don’t sell trends, so there’s no obsolescence.
You’re known for your innovative use of textures. What’s the last material that inspired you?
It’s almost impossible to pick a favorite material, for each has its own attributes, and materials change based on the collections. We are always looking for ways to develop unusual treatments for the textiles in our designs. We like to work with the highest quality materials in different ways to create something that may not have existed before.
Which artists or architects do you admire the most?
I have many: Lucas Cranach, Hans Holbein, Cy Twombly, Agnes Martin, Donald Judd. Each has their particularities. I also admire the Italian architect Palladio for his proportions and reduction. His floor plan has an extraordinary pureness. I buy art books constantly. My latest acquisition is a book on European bronzes from the Quentin Collection.
Are you a collector by nature, or is life a constant edit?
I collect based on what has caught my interest. There’s no formula. I actually think that’s the strategy for keeping things simple. I go after what I know I like and want. I try not to let extraneous factors or third parties influence my choices.
Do you wear a watch?
Every day. I mostly wear a Rolex, but I’m also particularly fond of the BVX and BD Diver watches I developed with Girard-Perregaux.
Do you think you’ll ever stop designing? How would you spend your days if you did?
In essence, no. The allowance of time would just lead me to focus more on other things I enjoy, such as gardening and architecture. I’ve been building a house on a piece of land in Maine for the past few years, in fact. It’s quiet, bucolic, and surrounded by nature. It’s my not-too-faraway escape.
grooming by ENRICO MARIOTTI at ART DEPARTMENT
set design by NICK DES JARDINES for MARY HOWARD STUDIO