Fashion critic

One in a series on the clothes that had a moment at New York Fashion Week.


Models settle into a finale vignette at the Bottega Veneta Fall/Winter 2018-19 Collection. (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

NEW YORK — Bottega Veneta, the Italian luxury house known for its woven leather handbags, made a one-time visit to this city to present its fall 2018 menswear and womenswear collections and brought with it a lustrous color palette that was both soothing and invigorating.

The collection’s shades of pumpkin orange, marigold yellow and deep purple bridged the divide between the rural landscape and the incandescence of the city. The colors were sophisticated and soulful. They weren’t searing or shrill or obnoxious. They were reassuring. Yes, color can be all that.


Bottega Veneta Fall/Winter 2018-19 Collection. (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Bottega Veneta Fall/Winter 2018-19 Collection. (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Bottega Veneta Fall/Winter 2018-19 Collection. (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Founded in 1966, Bottega Veneta was thrust into the fashion spotlight in 2001 when German-born Tomas Maier became creative director. Maier espoused a philosophy of understatement and discretion. He does not believe in logos and initials — unless they are the customers’ — and so Bottega Veneta is defined, in part, by its constant refusal of frills and distractions. For some people, that anonymity is a key selling point. For others, it leaves them asking: What’s the point of making the purchase at all?

[A normal person’s guide to understanding a Fashion Week runway show]

During a preview of the collection earlier in the week, Maier noted that the fall collection was inspired by the metalwork in the city’s elevators and building railings, by the steel beams that form the skeleton of skyscrapers, by the energy of Times Square and the quiet bird’s-eye view of the city that resembles a colorful checkerboard.


Bottega Veneta Fall/Winter 2018-19 Collection. (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Bottega Veneta Fall/Winter 2018-19 Collection. (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Bottega Veneta Fall/Winter 2018-19 Collection. (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Maier offered his remarks in the brand’s new store on Madison Avenue, a shrine to luxury merchandise whose opening prompted him to debut the collection here rather than in Milan, as is usual.

He presented his collection Friday night in the American Stock Exchange Building in the Financial District. A line of taxis and Ubers and hired sedans snaked down the narrow Trinity Place on a cold night. A bottleneck of guests slowly made their way through the narrow doorway, past the yellow labrador working security and into an event space so dark that ushers needed flashlights.

When the lights came up, the models walked around a stage shaped like a square and set with Bottega Venerate furniture (You like that sofa? It can be yours!) along with vintage pieces from Gio Ponti and an abstract steel sculpture by John Chamberlain. It was a recreation of the kind of stark but stunning Italian design that is the antithesis of Versace/Gucci/Dolce & Gabbana exuberance that tends to dominate the public imagination.


Bottega Veneta Fall/Winter 2018-19 Collection. (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Bottega Veneta Fall/Winter 2018-19 Collection. (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Bottega Veneta Fall/Winter 2018-19 Collection. (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Bottega Veneta Fall/Winter 2018-19 Collection. (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

The dark set provided a dramatic background for pumpkin-orange pantsuits, a mossy-green fuzzy overcoat, a saffron jacket and trouser, butterscotch-colored pajama pants and marigold-hued velvet dresses.


Bottega Veneta Fall/Winter 2018-19 Collection. (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Bottega Veneta Fall/Winter 2018-19 Collection. (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

The shapes at Bottega Veneta weren’t edgy. There were no homages to street style, no giving in to sloppiness. But there were pajama pants with side stripes and velvet evening dresses that had the ease of nightgowns. These weren’t stodgy clothes or clothes that were out of sync with the times. They looked of-the-moment. They were beautiful.

But it was the color that told the story. And it was the color that served as a reminder that one of fashion’s most powerful attributes is its ability to push us out of the gloom of black, gray and tan — and into the light.

Earlier at New York Fashion Week:

Tom Ford’s new collection is tawdry and vulgar and probably what our culture deserves

Fashion’s obsession with workingman style is getting a little silly

Willy Chavarria put a different kind of model on his runway. The effect was powerful.