In a regional exclusive, Tomas Maier, creative director of Bottega Veneta, tells us why he turned to a new medium for the brand's latest campaign
Tomas Maier turns to film for Bottega Veneta's latest campaign
There is a copy of Bottega Veneta’s Art of Collaboration on my coffee table. It is a mammoth doorstop of a book – 656 pages of incredible images captured by some of the leading creatives of our time, including Annie Leibovitz, Peter Lindbergh, Steven Meisel and Robert Longo. It is a book that transcends fashion – the clothes themselves are almost incidental to the artistry of the images.
Published in 2015, this weighty tome was the culmination of a 14-year project initiated by Bottega Veneta’s creative director, Tomas Maier. The premise of the Art of Collaboration was simple – each season, Maier would invite a world-class photographer or artist to shoot an advertising campaign for the brand. The aim was to work with a range of creatives, many of whom had no connection with the fashion industry, and see how they captured and communicated the brand’s creations and identity.
As Maier explained to me when the book first came out, collaboration is a cornerstone of this discreet Italian brand: “First of all, everything that we produce is as a result of people working together, from my role as creative director to the design team and the craftspeople who make our products. I like the sense that there are skilled hands behind Bottega Veneta who come together to make our products.
“In a way, the Art of Collaboration campaign extends this sense once the products have been made, collaborating with photographers and artists to create something valid and of quality.”
In a sign of the times, the brand has just launched the next instalment of Art of Collaboration, but this time around it has an entirely digital slant. Produced in collaboration with the creative agency Baron & Baron, the campaign for Bottega Veneta’s spring/summer 2018 collection is entitled Reflections. And rather than a series of stills, it consists of six short films. These will be released episodically over the course of the coming months, across various platforms. Each will focus on different characters, with overarching narratives that relate to rebirth, the reversal of time and reconnection.
In Miraggio, which releases this month, sirens wail as a car, engulfed in flames, rolls down the street of a deserted town in a sequence that invites viewers to question the line between dreams and reality. In 196.6 MHz, which is a play on the year that Bottega Veneta was launched, a man in a motel room and a woman in a car attempt to connect via the radio; while in Utopia, a man and woman cross paths in the midst of a mysterious pink fog.
In Aurora, meanwhile, a woman walks slowly and confidently along a dark, empty street in a small town. She heads towards a flood of bright white light, suddenly stops and finds herself facing a perfectly empty white room with seemingly no beginning and no end.
The six films have a distinctly surreal quality to them – and this is entirely intentional, says Maier. “These films have layers and depth. They’re not easily categorised. The spring/summer collection features garments that are the same way. You can’t just say: ‘Oh, it’s workwear. Oh, it’s for cocktails.’ These pieces can go in so many different directions. That’s how I see my client as well.”
The team tasked with producing Reflections includes Fabien Baron, who was responsible for direction; set designer Stefan Beckman, who is behind some of fashion’s most intriguing runway shows; Academy Award-nominated cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd, who gained notoriety for his work with Wong Kar-Wai in The Grandmaster (2013) and Sofia Coppola’s film The Beguiled (2017); and record producer and composer Johnny Jewel. Models include Vittoria Ceretti, Aube Jolicoeur, Janis Ancens and Sora Choi.
The film format facilitates a more expansive approach, Maier suggests. “When you are shooting a campaign, there’s a desire to tell more of a story. You are in an interesting environment with great talent, and the wheels start to spin. Who is this woman? What’s the man doing there? Whose house is this? Film now allows us to take the story further. To me, it is always more interesting when a film ends and the plot could go one way or the other. It’s open to interpretation.”
As a long-standing supporter of the Bottega Veneta brand, Baron was perfectly poised to translate its messaging via a new media, Maier says. “Fabien has attended the Bottega Veneta show every season for a long time. When he comes backstage, he always has something interesting to say. Obviously, he has a great reputation and we all know his body of work. I like that we have a similar approach. I believe that every millimetre matters, and with him, there is so much precision. Everything is considered.”
“There’s a tension in what Tomas does, that’s probably why there’s tension in the films,” Baron counters. “We want people to feel something when they see the films. It’s not a sensation that you usually have when you look at something fashion.”
In another sign of how traditional advertising formats are being turned on their head, still photographs for the print campaign were extracted from the moving images, rather than being shot separately. Traditional ad campaign elements, including an actual photographer, were entirely bypassed. So is this the death knell for traditional print campaigns? Not necessarily, says Baron.
“Even with the world moving toward digital, you do still need a print campaign. But I think of it more to entice people,” he explains. “It’s almost the advertisement for the films.”
As such, the layout of the print campaign was approached in a cinematic fashion, using the repetition of images to suggest motion.
There is an ongoing debate about how luxury brands can embrace digitisation, without compromising on their exclusive appeal. With Reflections, Bottega Veneta artfully and expertly toes that line. “Digital is supposed to be quicker and faster, but you still need to represent the brand and what it stands for: high-quality luxury. You have your story at a certain level, and you have your visuals at a certain level. That’s the way it was with print,” says Baron. And that’s the way it should be with digital. “You still need the dream factor. I think the films of Reflections are at the level of a feature movie – in product, talent and special effects – but there are layers. You can consume it in different ways.”
Ultimately, Reflections is a natural extension of the 656-page book sitting on my coffee table. “I think this new campaign – since these striking moving images can exist on so many platforms – will bring the same dynamic, just in a different way,” says Maier.
And this is just the story for digital. “We’re pushing the bar. A few other brands are pushing the bar,” says Baron. “But it’s just the beginning. In four or five years, people are going to do amazing things digitally. I’m sure we’re going to see people doing really creative stuff in the near future.
“This moving-image moment reminds me of when MTV started. When you had the first videos it was like: ‘Oh this is cool. Oh my God, there’s five girls on camera. Oh my God, they’re dancing.’ And then on and on. Then music videos became incredibly produced and visual commentaries of the time. I think this will happen with fashion brands and film, and I think everyone involved will take it up a notch every season.”