Legendary Art Director Fabien Baron Gives a Surreal Twist to Bottega Veneta’s Spring/Summer 2018 Campaign

In the latest addition to the brand's "Art of Collaboration" series, the fashion house marries Surrealism with classic tropes of cinema.

A still from Bottega Veneta's Mirragio Spring/Summer 2018 film. © Bottega Veneta.

For Bottega Veneta’s creative director Tomas Maier, art has always been a passion. Since taking the helm of the historic Italian fashion house in 2001, the German-born designer has woven this passion into the fabric of the brand by collaborating with some of the art world’s most renowned talents, including Tina Barney, Robert Longo, Jürgen Teller, Collier Schorr, and Alex Prager.

This season, Maier is reinvigorating Bottega Veneta’s history of artistic collaboration with a “digital-first” initiative: a series of six short films shot with the legendary art director Fabien Baron, best known for his work with icons like Madonna and Kate Moss as well as his years shaping Interview magazine. Titled “Reflections,” the anthology of films builds upon such “brand pillars” as architecture and Surrealism to create memorably striking imagery.

Working with Baron, Maier has recruited a motley crew for the series including cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd, who was nominated for an Oscar for his work on Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster; Stefan Beckman, who has created intricate set designs for the world’s top brands; and producer and composer Johnny Jewel of the electronic band Chromatics.

“It really evolved over time,” Baron told artnet News of the campaign. “We were thinking about how to translate the brand values of mystery and Surrealism in storytelling through the lens of Tomas’s vision. There’s a tension in what Tomas does, and that’s probably why there’s tension in the films. We want people to feel something when they see the films.”

The film series debuted with two installments, one titled Miraggio and the other 196.6 MHz. Exploring the concept of time and reality, each film creates a futuristic mise-en-scène through a retro lens. Simultaneously dark and hopeful, the films investigate the current wave of nostalgia in the fashion industry that has been set in motion by the rapid pace of technological change in society at large.

The newest videos for the campaign, released in March, are Utopia and Rebirth; in Utopia, a mist of magenta fog engulfs a man and woman as they cross paths—an aura of mystique and anticipation suffuse the encounter. In Rebirth, an interior setting is filled with blooming flowers that capture the themes of surrealism and sensuality that the collection encapsulates.

“Everything came from the film instead of the traditional campaign, with a print element, a film element, and a digital element.” Baron pointed out. “We took the stills for the print campaign from the film. There was no photographer.”

Miraggio has roots in the idea of the optical illusion (“miraggio” means “mirage” in Italian), which is a fundamental theme in Surrealism, with images and objects presented in unexpected, perhaps contradictory ways. As for the second film, its name—196.6 MHz—pays homage to 1966, the year Bottega Veneta was founded in the city of Vicenza. The “MHz” refers to its storyline: a man and woman attempt to connect to each other via a radio station. Again we see the vision of the future of the brand by looking at its past. The four remaining films will be released over the months of April and May.

A desire to reinstate tradition and contribute to the Bottega Veneta legacy lies at the heart of the campaign. As with most fashion shorts, it’s not so much the plot itself that draws you in as the stunning visuals and evocative sounds. Starring four international models—Vittoria Ceretti, Aube Jolicoeur, Janis Ancens, and Sora Choi—the films reflect the house’s modern and nuanced sensibility.

Bottega Veneta’s Spring/Summer 2018 fashion shows in Milan. Photo by Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images.

“These films have layers and depth,” Maier told artnet News. “They’re not easily categorized. The [spring/summer] Bottega Veneta collection features garments that are the same way. You can’t just say, ‘Oh, it’s workwear,’ or ‘Oh, it’s for cocktails.’ These pieces can go in so many different directions. That’s how I see my client as well.”

Despite the ambition of its multipart digital campaign, that’s hardly the only major event for Bottega Veneta this season. Just this month, the maison opened a new outpost at 740 Madison Avenue in New York—now its largest flagship store in the world.

The new destination combines three historic townhouses into one megawatt venue—a 15,000-square-foot space to house ready-to-wear, accessories, and a sumptuous home section designed to evoke what a quintessential Bottega Veneta apartment would feel like. Walking into that showpiece, a visitor finds elegant pastel-colored sofas surrounding wood-and-steel coffee tables, while woven stools flank arrays of glassware and porcelain. To top it all off, Maier curated a selection of Italian postwar and contemporary art, including a mesmerizing teal blue Lucio Fontana from 1967 and beautifully subtle works by Ettore Spalletti from the early 2000s.

Bottega Veneta's Fall/Winter 2018 fashion show at New York Stock Exchange. Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Bottega Veneta.

Bottega Veneta’s Fall/Winter 2018 fashion show at New York Stock Exchange. Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Bottega Veneta.

To coincide with the store’s opening, the maison held its runway show in New York during Fashion Week for the very first time, swapping out its usual mainstay in the Milan calendar. Held at the historic American Stock Exchange building downtown, the show drew a who’s who of the fashion and art world to celebrate Bottega’s men’s and women’s fall 2018 collection. The mood was set with Gio Ponti chairs, Bottega Veneta couches, a working fireplace, and, as the centerpiece, a white-and-yellow John Chamberlain sculpture. It was an ideal setting for Maier’s ode to New York, launching a new start for the storied purveyor of Italian luxe.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.