Bottega Veneta handbags are made in days, not hours, and some are now guaranteed for life. At WWD's Apparel and Retail CEO Summit, Bottega Veneta CEO Bartolomeo "Leo" Rongone announced the new service programme, noting that certain of the Italian luxury brand's iconic bags can be brought in for complimentary refresh and repair, and will be replaced free of charge in some cases.
The programme, dubbed "Certificate of Craft," will begin this month. He also mentioned that the service provides courtesy loaner handbags in cases where repairs are lengthy. According to a post-event press release, the certificate is distributed in the form of a physical card bearing the serial number of the bag in question. "We believe that true luxury is linked to the concept of time," Rongone said during an on-stage conversation with WWD's Milan bureau chief Luisa Zargani.
He asked an audience member to hoist up the brand's handwoven Kalimero bag, a bucket style that requires 55 metres of calf leather and is made without stitching. Rongone observed that the artisan simply alters the weaving process's pressure to achieve the curved portions. As a result, "no two bags are identical," and if an artisan becomes ill before the bag is finished, Bottega Veneta must wait for him or her to return to work to complete the object, he explained. "Use your product for a longer period of time; keep it forever," he advised. "We consistently value quality over quantity."
So, how will Bottega Veneta, a subsidiary of the publicly traded French luxury group Kering, grow its business while advocating for a more restrained, yet elevated, brand of consumption? Rongone claimed that its value proposition is "seducing a larger audience" and that its client base is growing. "One of the most genuine connections with sustainability is using the product for longer periods of time rather than replacing it." "This level has a much greater impact," he explained. "Everyone wants to be successful in their lives. But do you want to be remembered as the biggest? Or the most significant?"
The executive credited Bottega Veneta's new creative director Matthieu Blazy, who took over in November 2021 after Daniel Lee was fired, with embracing the brand's legacy of "extraordinary craftsmanship" and challenging artisans at its Montebello leather goods atelier to push techniques to new limits. These include "perverse banality" garments like blue jeans, T-shirts, and flannel shirts made of leather treated to look like knitted or woven fabrics. Rongone, who was wearing some of the leather jeans on stage, praised the "constant caress of the nubuck" leather for the wearer to enjoy.
He described the brand as unconventional because, unlike most luxury labels, it lacks a logo. Furthermore, in 2021, Bottega Veneta raised eyebrows and made headlines by withdrawing from Instagram, which has become the dominant channel for many fashion brands. "We do this in order to keep creativity at the forefront." "We are driven by creativity far more than by media," he explained. Instead of social media, Bottega Veneta promotes what Rongone refers to as "cultural affinity platforms." A recent example was the Italian brand's New York Fashion Week dinner at famed used book store The Strand, which included a limited-edition leather reworking of its iconic tote bags.
"We wanted to give importance to the physical, to paper, to a bookshop that probably has more than 100 years of history," he said. Despite its absence from social media, Rongone described a "fantastic" relationship with its Gen Z customers. He described brands' interactions with customers on Instagram as "one to many....You are talking to someone." When this factor is removed from the equation, people are free to discuss brands. "Gen Z adores these circumstances. They are always talking about us. "They share their thoughts and ideas, and we love to learn," he exclaimed.
The executive also stated that not having a logo is advantageous in the eyes of this generation of consumers. "They want to be true to themselves. So, while it may appear strange in practise, "having no logo has been one of the largest, most important levers of engagement with the youth," he explained. Rongone emphasised several significant historical connections between Bottega Veneta and New York City. In the late 1960s, the wife of one of the founders lived in Manhattan and was hired by Andy Warhol to answer phones at The Factory "and say, 'I don't speak English.'" As a result, the sought-after art superstar is served as a "filter."
The Italian brand, founded in 1966 as an artisans' collective, opened its first store on New York's Madison Avenue in 1972, at a time when the brand was gaining renown for its distinctive leather weaving and its tag line "When your own initials are enough." "They were adamant that they were creating a brand that celebrated the uniqueness and quality of people," Rongone explained. "The founders had this vision of creating this extraordinary, luxurious brand while also celebrating individuality, which we now call diversity."