Italian luxury brand Bottega Veneta opened the doors of its new Beverly Hills maison last week, a 4,828-square-foot, two-story retail space at 320 N. Rodeo Drive that manages to augment the shopping experience with an immersive short course in Southern California architecture.
The Kering-owned label is no stranger to the storied shopping street, having opened its second U.S. store there in the late 1970s, and, until recently, occupying a single-level space at 457 N. Rodeo Drive. But it's just the second in the brand's new maison concept (the first, located in an 18th century palazzo, opened in Milan in 2013), a retail space designed to be less cookie-cutter and more reflective of geographic surroundings. In this instance, the man behind the concept – Bottega Veneta's longtime creative director, Tomas Maier – was inspired by some of the architectural styles he'd become familiar with on visits to Santa Barbara and Montecito during the last three decades.
"I like that Mediterranean Revival [look] because it's got a poverty to it — no ornamentation, no decoration," said Maier, singling out Lutah Maria Riggs' design for the Montecito estate of Baron and Baroness Maximilian von Romberg, which served as the starting point. "[Riggs'] Von Romberg house is a great example," he said, "because it's Mediterranean Revival but it's very modern at the same time. It's almost like the first step into Midcentury [style] because it's so undecorated and unornamented. … What really inspired me was the idea of restraint in color, in surface, in the type of materials they used." Other architectural influences included the Spanish Colonial Revival style popularized by George Washington Smith and Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue.
The result is a retail space with an organic feel (well, as organic as you're likely to get on Rodeo Drive, anyway); based in a color palette of neutral, earthy tones, the walls and ceilings are bleached oak, the floors are tiled in various types of pale stone and corners are rounded. The architectural centerpiece of the first floor is a thick, curved plasterwork banister that arcs gracefully up toward a skylight-topped second floor that floods the space with natural light filtered through wooden slats.
The second floor showcases the label's men's and women's ready-to-wear collections of footwear and accessories, while the first floor is home to small leather goods, home accessories, luggage, eyewear, fragrances and handbags – including a bag that will be sold exclusively through the new store. The Beverly '71/'16 bag is based on a design plucked from the Bottega Veneta archives — the numbers in the name refer to the year the design was originally introduced (1971) and the year it was reintroduced (2016) — and is slouchy with a gentle curve at the top. Two fabrications of the handbag are available exclusively through the new maison: a deerskin version in the intrecciato weave the label is known for ($3,800) and a crocodile skin version ($33,000). (In addition, a nappa leather intrecciato version is available online at bottegaveneta.com for $3,550).
"I chose this bag because it was from the time – the '70s – that the company was very big in this town," Maier explained, "and the bag has that very relaxed attitude that we laugh about Los Angeles [having]. It can be worn over the shoulder. It's smooshy. It can go with flip-flops. It can go with anything – that kind of thing."
With a long-established historical connection to the area and boutiques on Rodeo Drive and Melrose Place (which opened in 2013), such an overture to SoCal consumers hardly seems necessary. But Maier said it's not an enticement as much as an acknowledgment.
"When you are in a key market like this, I think it's nice to embrace the market, embrace the local customer, embrace the town," he said. "We have been in L.A. since the '70s, the second [Bottega Veneta] store in America was on Rodeo, so it is important to us – and we want to say that."
While most of the brand's retail stores will continue to use the regular store concept that's been around (with minor tweaks) since 2001, Maier said more maisons are in the works, including a New York location scheduled to open in 2017.
"It will reflect what I feel New York is about. I am a part-time New Yorker [and] I have a place there, so I know the city pretty well and I think the city can be a big inspiration," he said, declining to be more specific.
"I will share with you," Maier said, "that it is three landmark townhouses that we have fully restored, and then they're combined on the inside so it's a five-level store. It's going to be, I think, our biggest store in the world."