On the night of February 25, during Milan Fashion Week, Bottega Veneta’s creative director Matthieu Blazy delivered the final installment of his “Italia” trilogy. Fall 2023 was the third knockout show in a row, but it wasn’t just the clothes that were profoundly moving. He celebrated his trifecta by sourcing three masterpiece bronze statues for the mise en scène—one by the revolutionary Futurist Umberto Boccioni and two depicting runners from the 1st century B.C.E.
The National Gallery of Cosenza supplied Boccioni’s transfixing 1913 (cast in 1931) , its figure striding boldly forward, leaving classical form behind. The runners were originally unearthed in 1754 from Villa of the Papyri in Herculaneum and are on loan from Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli. The statues, three of Blazy’s favorites, were positioned in a stately manner atop a sea of carpeting designed to mimic stracciatella, a chocolate-speckled flavor of gelato preferred by the designer.
The sculptures spoke to the theme of his trilogy, encompassing broad riffing on the history of Italian culture, stretching back to ancient times but reaching for the future as well. The theme seemed to be the culmination of 38-year-old Blazy’s background. Born and raised in Paris, the designer said his father is an art specialist and his mother is a historian.
The clothes told a story of magic and mythology. There was also what has come to be a signature for Blazy, an everyday luxed-to-the-max jeans look. There were heady nods to the ancient world, such as the show opener—a simple, translucent ivory shift dress and floor-length, tunic-like sweaters for men. Other silhouettes echoed classical draping—Blazy reportedly found inspiration in Sandro Botticelli’s(ca. 1480).
But as the runway progressed, things got more intricate and colorful. Rich textures were sent out, as well as topographic tropes appearing on knots and leather, while ample feathers supplied movement and bold color. He certainly didn’t skimp on green.
Leather was intricate, mimicking serpent scales, twisted into thick ropes for bags and shaped into dresses and trenches in a supple way. In a particularly clever nod to the Italian homeland, Murano glass accentuated the Sardine bag’s handles.
The models appeared to represent archetypes from various strata of Italian society. The show notes read, “The parade is a place of priests and playboys, sleepwalkers and streetwalkers with sirens of the screen and the ancient seas.” In a statement, Blazy said, “I loved the idea of the parade in Italy; a procession, a strange carnival, a crowd of people from anywhere and everywhere and yet somehow, they all fit and go in the same direction. I wanted to look at what makes people gather together in a place without hierarchy, where everyone is invited.” Art-world VIPs in attendance included Ilona Staller, better known as Cicciolina (Jeff Koons’s former wife and muse), and artist Sagg Napoli.
It will be difficult for Bottega Veneta to continue upping the ante with set design—specifically seating. This season attendees sat on Gio Ponti‘s 1957 lacquered ash and cane Superleggera chairs. For his Spring ’23 outing six months ago, Blazy famously tapped design maestro Gaetano Pesce to create 400 original chairs in a truly awe-inspiring runway. Some of the chairs are still available for about $8,700 on the Bottega site, but don’t expect to see the Boccioni bronze any time soon.