Bottega Veneta is one of those brands that has been around for some time that suddenly captures the crest of a wave that, once again, whisks it to the forefront of fashion visibility. Although this Italian luxury brand that is primarily known for its signature high-end leather goods has been producing its unique products since the mid-1960’s and has always been on the shopping list of discerning fashion devotees, the last five years or so has seen the brand undergo a massive revitalization that has whisked it to international prominence in the luxury fashion press and command a must-have status for those who take fashion seriously.
Their AW11 campaign sees the brand utilizing another collaboration that extends its reach beyond fashion. This time Bottega Veneta has commissioned renowned architectural photographer Robert Polidori to undertake his first ever fashion shoot.
The Canadian-born photographer first earned his stripes on the experimental film and photography circuit of New York at the start of the 1970’s before developing his own style of elegiac documentary photography that uses architecture and architectural elements to develop a much more complex discussion about almost any topic from history to contemporary society, rarely focusing on human subjects to deliver its powerful narratives. Polidori has photographed everything from the flamboyant and sumptuous interiors denoting wealth and power for leading publications through to a much more traditional documentarian position such as in his moving photoessay on New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
All in all, it’s rather a departure for him to undertake a shoot for a fashion brand, complete with top model talents Nicolas Ripoll and Isabeli Fontana. But, using the stunning interior of the Palazzo Papadapoli in Venice perhaps provides a useful anchor point in which his more familiar practice and the dictates of fashion photography can find a harmonious meeting point. And, indeed, the result is extremely pleasing to the eye.
Never really cinematic – one would hardly expect that from a photographer so deeply grounded in documentary approaches- the serendipity arising from the styling and the choice of location nonetheless creates its own implied narratives in much the same way that Polidori’s carefully documented found interiors give up their own secret histories. Given the decidedly sixties styling to compliment the current collection, the juxtaposition of models and the faded grandeur of the interiors can’t but help evoke imagery from Italian cinema of the 1960’s or 1970’s. Never a reenactment, the sumptuous photographs, bordering on cinematography, nonetheless suggest moments from some classic by Visconti or Bertolucci that never made it into the final edit.
It’s an entirely fitting mise-en-scène for Bottega Veneta’s current collection with its 1960’s mood perfectly capturing that unique moment in history when Italy surged forth with so many ways to teach the world to be effortlessly hip, stylish and chic. And there’s a suggestion about the brand’s own story in it all: the very particular mood of the Venetian interiors summing up the regional sensibility of the Veneto, the region of Italy in which Michele Taddei and Renzo Zengiaro first set up their label and literally described it as a Venetian atelier