Bottega Veneta Designer Tomas Maier Thinks ‘It’ Bags Are ‘Totally Marketed Bullshit Crap’

Tomas Maier

If you’ve been stuck in an airport in your rumpled traveling outfit, grappling with your bags as they wheel off in unpredictable directions and fighting the urge to down a bottle of vodka from the nearest duty-free store, consider this: Tomas Maier, the creative director of Bottega Veneta, might be watching you with disgust. In a rare interview that ran in this week’s New Yorker, the designer explained that he frequently watches people in airport terminals in order to identify and judge “design horrors”:

“I just sit there and look at people and I see what’s the malfunction and how can we help that man,” he said. “I pity him! That he makes his life so miserable — himself! — by carrying some ill-functioning bag that rips his jacket half off” — Maier threw himself sideways in his chair — “and gives him a bad shoulder ache at the end of the day. And it makes him look an idiot on top of everything.”

Maier is so obsessive about aesthetics that he dropped the H from his first name so that it would be more symmetrical with his last. He is easily irked by even the most minor design flaw, like that of a coffee saucer from a hotel where he used to stay in Milan:

“It drove me crazy,” he told me. “Every morning. You lifted up the cup and by the time you put it down — because the saucer was too curved up — the spoon had always slid down.” With a certain fierce pleasure, he pantomimed the entire act. “Now, in this hand you hold the newspaper, and with this hand you lift the coffee up and have a sip, and you want to put it down and you put it crooked on the saucer because this spoon is underneath. You drip half the coffee over, so that means you have to put the paper down, and you have to take the glasses off, pick up the spoon —” He threw up his hands. “I mean, hello! Whoever designed that should have designed it right.”

His perfectionism has served him well, though. Maier was hired by Tom Ford (then the president of Gucci Group, which owns Bottega Veneta) to be the creative director of the Italian label in 2001, when it was on the verge of bankruptcy. Since then, the company’s sales have jumped 800 percent, thanks in large part to the best-selling Cabat bag, which retails for over $6,000. (Each bag is hand-braided, and Maier explains that the cost of the bag is simply put toward paying his craftsmen fairly and using good materials.) Unsurprisingly, Maier hates it when people call the Cabat an “It Bag":

“The It Bag is a totally marketed bullshit crap,” Maier told me. “You make the bag, you put all the components in it that you think could work, you send it out to a couple of celebrities, you get the paparazzi to shot just when they walk out of their house. You sell that to the cheap tabloids, and you say in a magazine that there’s a waiting list. And you run an ad campaign at the same time. I don’t believe that’s how you make something that’s lasting — that becomes iconic as a design.”

Just Have Less [New Yorker]