How Francesca Bellettini plans to blend tradition with modern style at Bottega Veneta

Written by By Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN

“The essential thing for me,” said Tomas Maier in 2000, “is to create clothes to make you feel something, and that is something no one else can give you.”

Bottega Veneta’s latest design director, Francesca Bellettini, brings that philosophy to the Italian luxury brand. Bellettini replaces Maier, who is a year away from his tenure as creative director of Hugo Boss, and left Bottega Veneta, he said, to “take my energy and creativity to the next level.”

Bottega Veneta celebrated Bellettini’s appointment by designing a special style of luggage designed around her style.

Bellettini calls herself “the embodiment of Bottega Veneta’s timeless, elegant, and timeless Italian design aesthetic” — a style that Maier has stayed true to since he purchased the company in 1996.

“It’s a company that I’ve grown to love, to learn from, and to still have the same passion for,” Maier said.

From her first day at the company, Bellettini said, she’s been inspired by the archives and artisans, and has been charged with creating a collection for women who “believe in the soul of the collection.”

“I am inspired by these people who make Bottega Veneta” Bellettini said. “They are true artisanal craftspeople who have been artisans for hundreds of years. I want to give them a dream and hope to see them smiling once again.”

Another characteristic that Bellettini considers an essential part of Bottega Veneta’s identity is the “brand value,” or the values established by Bottega Veneta’s owner, Graziano de Boni, that were often incorporated in Maier’s pieces.

That value, Bellettini said, involves being more than just “modern” or “feminine,” though she recognizes the importance of those traits to the label’s strength. Bottega Veneta is “not just another fashion brand,” she said. “We’ve lived in the past in our collections as well, so we always know where we stand.”

“It’s an ambience that we like to live in,” Bellettini said. “It’s a feeling, which people will remember and will come back to these stores. They will remember the textures and the colors of the fabrics that you used, the shapes of the silhouette.”

Bottega Veneta is about “more than a suitcase,” said Bellettini. “It’s a lifestyle, and of course the bag is a very important part of that lifestyle,” Bellettini said. “But the bags have a lot more to offer than that.”

Bottega Veneta’s key themes include craftsmanship, the story of its origins, and the haute campagna, or artisanal quality that characterizes its fine leathers.

“I think that there is definitely a different approach,” Bellettini said, comparing her approach to Maier’s. “With Tomas Maier, it’s a nice balance of fun and creativity with a true quality.”

Bellettini said she’ll present her collection for spring 2019 in March, following the announcement that Bellettini and Bruno Frisoni have replaced Carlos Tavares as chief executive officer and Lorenzo Serafini as president and chief operating officer, respectively.

Serafini and Frisoni are both strong influences in Bellettini’s life. Serafini is her father’s business partner; Frisoni is her husband’s business partner.

“They’re both incredibly elegant, and they can never be wrong,” Bellettini said. “They’re two amazing guys who have these characteristics. They’re really good people.”

The changes at Bottega Veneta are among several recent major executive and design changes in the luxury industry. Since August, Ralph Lauren announced that it would hire two new CEOs; Georgina Chapman stepped down as CEO of Marchesa, and Yves Saint Laurent has appointed Ricardo Tisci as creative director.

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