Bottega Veneta’s Tomas Maier talks L.A., sporty designs and a new Rodeo Drive flagship store

Hammer Museum’s “Gala in the Garden” Sponsored by Bottega Veneta

Liz Goldwyn, left, and Selma Blair, right, both wear Bottega Veneta as they pose with the fashion label’s creative director, Tomas Maier, at the Hammer Museum’s Gala in the Garden on Oct. 10.

(Stefanie Keenan )
Los Angeles Times Fashion Critic

Tomas Maier was doing quiet luxury long before “slow fashion” became part of the cultural discussion.

Creative director of Bottega Veneta since 2001, Maier revived the Italian leather brand’s famous motto from the 1970s, “When Your Own Initials Are Enough,” and built a lifestyle around it, encompassing men’s and women’s ready-to-wear, fine jewelry, fragrance, tabletop, furniture, as well as leather goods distinguished not by a logo, but by the house’s signature intrecciato woven leather.

The child of architect parents, the German-born designer attended the Waldorf School, and art has remained central to his life and work. In 2002, he launched the Art of Collaboration — a project that taps a different contemporary artist or photographer to collaborate on the brand’s ad campaign each season. Out this month, a book titled “Bottega Veneta: The Art of Collaboration” (Rizzoli), which chronicles the partnerships with Lord Snowdon, Nan Goldin, Philip-Lorca diCorcia and others.

An avid art collector and architectural preservationist, Maier recently launched an initiative with Bottega Veneta to save Japan’s Modernist gems, many of which are in danger of demolition. Over the years, the brand has supported numerous art exhibitions around the world. And in L.A., Bottega has been the sponsor of the Hammer Museum’s Gala in the Garden for three years. We caught up with Maier when he was in town for the event to chat about hiking, his favorite painting and the new Bottega flagship in the works for next year.


What are your must-sees when you are in L.A.?

I’ve come to L.A. once or twice a year for the last 35 years for the art, the architecture and the laid-back vibe. I like to discover new areas, getting on the bike in the mornings. This trip, I’m going to see an amazing antiquities show at the Getty called “Power and Pathos.” I went to see the Matthew Barney show at the Regen [Projects] gallery, which was very nice. And I went to the Broad museum but I couldn’t get in. But I think the museum looks great from the outside!

Bottega is based in Italy, but you live between Palm Beach and Maine.

I actually have a U.S. passport and have lived here for the past 15 years. I’m an East Coast person because it’s easier when you work a lot with Europe. I was in Maine last weekend and it was beautiful, really blue sky and all the leaves turning. It’s nice to be somewhere where we can live without the AC howling all day and all night. I live on an island, but it’s big enough to go hiking. It really cleans out your head.


The women’s spring 2016 collection you showed in Milan last month was very sporty. Was Maine an inspiration?

Yes, and it really started with the men’s spring collection, which was about getting away from corporate and being in touch with nature.

Do you hike in your Nikes or do you have hiking boots?

Well, we make hiking shoes that are coming out in the spring. They’re fabulous. You can walk for miles and miles.

Art is obviously an important part of your life. Do you remember the first artist or exhibition that had an impact on you as a child?

At Alte Pinakothek in Munich, I remember looking at that Albrecht Dürer self-portrait where he has the long curly hair and is wearing a fur coat. It’s a beautiful painting, and I still go to see it every time I’m there. The city has great museums. They added on two more Pinakotheks, the modern and the contemporary, which is that famous museum that closes at 4:30 p.m. because the whole ceiling is glass and all the paintings are lit with natural light. Then there is the Glyptothek, which has antiquities. It’s small but stellar.

Your new book highlights collaborations with various photographers over the years. Being from L.A., I particularly liked the images Peter Lindbergh shot at Universal Studios.

Peter chose that location, and it was really about being cinemagraphic. I saw the studio tour going by over and over for two days! We shot another campaign in L.A. with Larry Sultan at the beautiful Neutra Singleton house on Mulholland that used to belong to Vidal Sassoon. Larry wanted to shoot at night. So we had a movie crew who lit everything starting at 9 p.m.


You have a new L.A. flagship in the works. Will it be different than the Melrose Place store?

Yes, we’re opening a new location on Rodeo Drive next spring. The shop that’s on Rodeo now is a shop we inherited when [luxury conglomerate] Kering bought Bottega in 2001. It’s never been 100% our real creation, like the store on Melrose Place. The Melrose store is about embracing California architecture, natural light and white with just a touch of color. I just changed the seat cushions to orange because it makes me think of all those little cars from the 1970s, the surfer cars. And you didn’t see that color elsewhere; it was a great California color. The new Rodeo store is a whole little building near Tom Ford and Hermès. I wanted it to be about the place, so the design is really about Beverly Hills and Mediterranean inspiration. We did a façade and proposed it to the city planners and they said, “Somebody finally embraces what this is about!”