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It’s hard to imagine Bottega Veneta, which last year surpassed the 1.5 billion euro mark and achieved global brand status, as a struggling, understated and on the verge of bankruptcy in 2001 – and many may have forgotten that the acquisition of the brand was led by Tom Ford and Domenico De Sole, who then ran the Gucci Group.

Gucci Group takes the reins

De Sole then revealed that Bottega Veneta was at the top of his list of acquisition targets and, together with Ford, realized that the brand’s strong heritage of high-quality leather accessories and footwear and craftsmanship Italian had enormous potential. He thought the brand could exponentially increase its revenue, which in 2000 was around $50 million.

Ford did not become involved in the design of the collection, as it took over the design of the Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche rtw line, which Gucci Group acquired in November 1999. Instead, Tomas Maier was appointed to the position of creator. director of Bottega Veneta.

Initially, Gucci Group purchased a 66.67% stake in Bottega Veneta through a capital investment of $96.2 million and the purchase of shares from its shareholders for $60.6 million, for a total of $156.8 million. The remaining 33.33% was in the hands of its shareholders – the Moltedo family.

The beginnings of Bottega Veneta

The company was founded in 1966 in Vicenza, Veneto, by Michele Taddei and Renzo Zengiaro. Shortly after Zengiaro left Bottega Veneta in the late 70s, Taddei handed the business over to his ex-wife Laura Braggion, who ran the business with her second husband Vittorio Moltedo and was the brand’s creative director. . She would contribute to the brand’s early success in the United States by becoming Andy Warhol’s assistant, whose studios made the short film “Bottega Veneta Industrial Videotape” in 1985, and opened the first store there in New York in 1972.

The brand had enjoyed success in the 60s and 70s as an expression of high quality, understated elegance and craftsmanship. At the time of the acquisition, Bottega Veneta had 12 directly operated stores in the United States, five in Europe and four in Asia, and the Italian luxury group has developed its strategy of controlling distribution in Japan, a historically strong market for the brand. , including the operation of 19 stores.

The Moltedos left Bottega Veneta shortly after the acquisition of Gucci Group and Patrizio di Marco was recruited from Céline, where he was president of US operations, to join Bottega Veneta as general manager in May 2001. The following month, he was promoted to CEO, while at the same time Tomas Maier was hired as the brand’s creative director, preparing Bottega Veneta for its reinvention.

Thomas Maier codifies the Bottega plan

Germany’s Maier, who had spent nine years at Hermès and previously worked at Guy Laroche and Sonia Rykiel, was an unlikely savior for a company steeped in Italian tradition. But the principles he established – no logos and no compromises – redefined Bottega Veneta in an era of luxury brand gone mad.

Tomas Maier
Billy Farrell/BFA/REX/Shuttersto

The women’s rtw line debuted in October 1997 and was briefly discontinued by Gucci. Maier reinstated it and in 2004 the company introduced menswear and quickly established its signature look: refined, realistic and ever-changing, never out of style.

Starting from the brand’s signature Intrecciato woven leather bags and leveraging the strength of its artisans, the history and cultural context of the region itself, Maier set out to create a style brand of life. As the ’90s logo craze raged, he was drawn to the brand’s slogan that resonated with the designer, who favored sophisticated designs that advocated individualism: “When your own initials are enough.”

Di Marco was tasked with repositioning Bottega Veneta in the luxury range, which was a difficult task as the brand had moved away from its roots and diluted its brand DNA by adopting a flashier and less luxurious identity and he did not much remained of the old archives.

Clarity of vision and disciplined execution paid off, and after structuring its global organization and distribution, increasing its revenue more than tenfold in six years, in 2009 di Marco left the company on a high. and was called upon to lead the Gucci brand. , succeeding Mark Lee as CEO.

Bottega in the years

In January 2009, Marco Bizzarri, previously at Stella McCartney, was named President and CEO of Bottega Veneta, and although his arrival coincided with the global recession, he was also able to lead the brand through another phase of growth.

Bottega Veneta Knot pouch in Intrecciato satin

Bottega Veneta Knot clutch in Intrecciato satin.
Courtesy picture

He continued to build the brand on understated luxury and craftsmanship, establishing a new 108,000 square foot headquarters in Milan and investing in the company’s human resources by offering its employees a new headquarters in 2013 – the majestic 18th century Villa Schroeder-Da Porto. , nestled in a park about 25 km from Vicenza, in the Veneto region of northern Italy. The site has obtained LEED certification at Platinum level developed by the Green Building Council, helping Bottega Veneta to become the first Italian company to achieve this level in the fashion and luxury sector.

The building included the workshop, management and administration offices, storage of precious skins, archives including 5,000 bags, a museum, a restaurant and its own artisan school, which was internalized. Bottega Veneta has conservatively restored the 54,000 square foot villa, which is protected by the Italian government’s Department of Historic Buildings and Monuments, retaining its local stone facade, portals, columns, statues and fountains . He drove growth in Asia and further expanded the brand’s commercial footprint by opening a flagship store in Milan.

Bottega Veneta

Villa Schroeder-Da Porto in Montebello Vicentino
Courtesy of Bottega Veneta

Adapt to the landscape

In 2014, Bizzarri became CEO of Kering’s new Couture and Leather Goods division, directly overseeing most of Kering’s luxury brands. Former Valentino and Ermenegildo Zegna Group executive Carlo Alberto Beretta was appointed CEO of Bottega Veneta in January 2015 and left a year later, replaced by former Hugo Boss CEO Claus-Dietrich Lahrs, at a when the brand was hit by the luxury downturn, as analysts lamented a lack of product innovation, lopsided pricing architecture and overreliance on Chinese and tourist clientele and limited brand awareness. brand in developed markets.

In 2018, after 17 years, Maier left Bottega VenetaUnder his tenure, revenues grew from 48 million euros to almost 1.2 billion euros in 2017, but the brand had struggled to keep up with rapid changes in the consumer landscape, as demand dwindled on its key market, Asia, and which it was unable to exploit in a millennial audience.

He was replaced by Daniel Lee, previously director of ready-to-wear at Céline, who followed earlier stints at Maison Margiela, Balenciaga and Donna Karan.

In September 2019, Bartolomeo Rongone, who goes by the name Leo, previously COO at Saint Laurent, took over from Lahrs.

Lee helped revive the brand, turning it into a hot-selling ticket and an influential, fashion-forward brand, infusing a new, youthful spirit into the collections. Her designs, especially the accessories – from the signature Pouch bag, which was introduced in her debut collection in 2019, to the Cassette bag and the Lido sandals – all flew off the shelves. He built momentum for the brand with disruptive strategies such as deleting his Instagram account and hosting traveling fashion shows in places including London, Berlin and Detroit.

The best Bottega Veneta creations by Daniel Lee

Bottega Veneta’s Jodie bag
Marcus Tondo/WWD

In a surprising split, Lee left the company last November, which was seen by multiple sources as a layoff, given the designer’s complex personality. Sources say Bottega Veneta was losing key figures within the company, ranging from prized and highly skilled veteran craftsmen at the company’s headquarters in Vicenza to pivot managers who clashed with Lee, often described as uncommunicative. .

A new era

Matthieu Blazy, until then design director, was promoted internally a few days later and held his first show as creative director on February 26. The event marked the brand’s return to Milan Fashion Week and did not disappoint retailers and the press, as the was hailed for respect while evolving house codes and its precise, chic cuts. and its strong accessories.

Rongone helped Bottega Veneta in 2021 record a 24.2% increase in revenue compared to 2020, surpassing the 1.5 billion euro mark. Compared to 2019, revenues increased by 32%. The CEO and Blazy plan to move the company’s new headquarters to Palazzo San Fedele in Milan, where the show was held, before the end of 2023. The executive has further strengthened the exclusivity of the brand by eliminating all markdowns and streamlining brand wholesale. accounts — by increasing the number of dealerships and also taking on online partners.

Matthew Blazy

Matthew Blazy
Willy Vanderperre/Courtesy of Bottega Veneta

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Rodney N.

The author Rodney N.