Bottega Veneta’s illusion leathers have to be seen to be believed – from leather ‘denim’ to lambskin plaid shirts

Bottega Veneta's illusion leathers

Bottega Veneta’s illusion leathers have to be seen to be believed – from leather ‘denim’ to lambskin plaid shirts

There was much anticipation when Matthieu Blazy stepped up as creative director of Bottega Veneta following the seemingly abrupt departure of the celebrated Daniel Lee.

Following the huge success of Lee’s tenure at the leather-led fashion house – during which he breathed new life into Bottega’s famous intrecciato techniques with the padded Cassette bag and made an unexpected shade of ‘parakeet’ green the fashion colour of 2021 – attention turned to how Blazy would follow up what was a period of technical experimentation for the house.

‘New Bottega’ was now ‘New, New Bottega’ – and Mr Blazy didn’t disappoint. His Autumn/Winter ’22 debut show, held in the brand’s home of Milan, was subtle to the naked eye. The first look to walk the runway was a simple white tank top and straight-leg jeans – an unusually basic choice to open a new era for Bottega – but on closer look both pieces were made entirely from leather yet manipulated to look exactly like cotton.

Blazy’s illusion leathers have since become a signature, from ‘plaid’ shirts to finely-woven socks, all miraculously made in lambskin. Dubbed “excitingly normal” by fashion commentators (most of whom lauded Blazy’s approach to making basic pieces unexpectedly high fashion) – the designer himself has admitted that that was the aim.

“That was actually the idea behind it. I wanted things to look very simple. Not simple… but fake-simple,” he told menswear magazine Fantastic Man of the trompe-l’oeil technique.

He added of the process: “That first look was really a question of how to take the message of a jeans and T-shirt – an everyday look – and to elevate it to the maximum. We spent three months printing, and printing, and fighting against this material: to really get the feeling that when you look at it, you can’t tell it’s leather. Not until you touch it. Which I find quite seductive, by the way. Slightly perverse.”

Digital printing on leather isn’t necessarily a new technique, but Blazy’s transformation of seemingly everyday garments has certainly subverted the traditional ideals of craftsmanship that most associate with leatherwork today.

It’s said that the checked shirt that Kate Moss nonchalantly wore at the Spring/Summer 2023 show was printed 12 times over in order to achieve the depth of colour to perfectly mimic flannel.

Blazy’s reinterpretation of the ordinary didn’t stop there, either – even the brown paper bag has had the trompe l’oeil treatment, in a Kraft-coloured shopper that is in fact, you guessed it, calfskin leather lined in suede.

While illusion leather has undoubtedly been the undercurrent of Blazy’s first trilogy of collections for the Italian fashion house, it’s said that his next offering will take another U-turn – though of course, leather will always remain the backbone of Bottega Veneta.

Daniel Lee may have firmly placed himself in the fashion history books for making the brand cult once more, but Matthieu Blazy has surely now made his own mark on the Bottega Veneta timeline – and somehow found new ways to reinvent an artisanal leather label once over.