On East 60th Street the other afternoon, just across the street from where that small and charmingly dignified Italian haberdashery used to be (R.I.P.), a black Sprinter van pulled up and parked. As the door slid open, out poured a primo foursome: a Blackbear look-alike in pink Chanel sneakers and distressed pink logo hat, his buddy in Yeezy 750 Wave Runners, a female friend in white leopard tights and statement purse, and someone trailing them all, filming.
They stomped into Barneys, of course, determined and a little stupid.
This is the state of luxury right now: chaotic, young, herky-jerky. Mixed metaphors. Bad money after good and good money confused as hell. And sometimes pink.
I like pink! And Yeezys! And jumbled luxury! Nothing is more off-putting than clothes that warn you off from wearing them, that shush you. I have shopped those stores for years, sometimes cowed by them and sometimes snide in the face of their rejection.
That said, I was relieved, on this day, not to be following Team Neon into Barneys (which I adore and always have) and instead to be braving the Madison Avenue wind corridor for a few blocks to see the new Bottega Veneta flagship.
In the rush to democratize luxury, almost no brand has been spared: Gucci has become anime, even the precious Goyard print is the stuff of iPhone cases (unofficially, though that just reinforces the point).
There is, reassuringly, none of this at Bottega Veneta, and not because it is uptight. To the contrary, the company specializes in a sort of controlled flamboyance. Its most outré pieces are the ones designed with the most detail and care, lest you mistake lightness for slightness.
The new store — the Maison, as everyone inside referred to it — takes up a shocking half-block of Madison, a five-floor behemoth in a building that’s the combination of three 19th-century townhouses.
I came for the intrecciato, same as you’d go to the Jets game for the existential misery or to Peter Luger for the steak for two. It is the company’s quintessence, a crosshatched leather weave that runs through the shoes, the shirts, the wallets and almost everything else. Because the motif is so signature, the things around it don’t have to speak as loudly.
My first nice wallet, many years ago, was a stone-colored intrecciato, and I’d been interested in a simple card holder in color-blocked pink and purple ($250). The first floor is almost all accessories, weaves from wall to wall. Hidden drawers opened to reveal card holders, wallets and billfolds in a riot of colors (though unfortunately, not the one I’d come for).
It was all quite easy to admire, and when it came to the tote bags and backpacks, almost tear-inducingly expensive: for an ostrich tote, $9,000; for a sensible color-blocked half-intrecciato tote, $3,400. (There is a collection of New York-themed items to celebrate the store opening, though they are inessential.)
I headed for the fourth floor for men’s clothing and was immediately joined by Victoria, part sales clerk and part detail-oriented tour guide. (In most stores with multiple categories, you get passed off when you move between them, but not here.)
I came for the intrecciato but found myself gravitating to the snakeskin. If I’ve been steering my personal aesthetic in any one direction in recent months, it’s been modernist Mafioso, a clash of the gaudy and the elegant.
The best items here, the most pricey items here, were the ne plus ultra of this idea: a phenomenal sweater jacket with cashmere arms and suede body, with snakeskin and intrecciato leather detailing ($5300), or a lush green zip-neck sweater with full snakeskin shoulder panels ($2,300) that fit me — and I should say, suited me — better than almost every item of clothing I own.
Trying on such ideologically aligned clothing is reassuring, but only one part of a well-designed life. We walked up to the fifth floor, where the company’s home collection is gathered: yes, intrecciato tissue boxes ($540) and photo frames ($500 to $850), but also an artichoke suede daybed ($13,750) that made me lament my career choice ever so slightly.
To shop is to buy, but also to dream, I reminded myself, working my way back downstairs, stopping off to smell some of the Parco Palladiano scents ($495). I asked Victoria if she’d ever been to the region that inspired them, and she said no. (Note to management: Send her!)
I’d come for the intrecciato but ended up seeing that signature pattern as representative of a broader philosophy: Show off, but only for yourself. I’d glossed over the jewelry on the men’s floor, but on the women’s floor Victoria opened up a drawer. I stopped cold on a string of tiny spherical stones (agate, smoky quartz and others) maybe a millimeter wide — mostly green and pink, with some beige, blue and white thrown in ($780). It was a royal hippie necklace, an accessory I never knew I needed.
I happened to be wearing a tonal blue outfit: navy jacket, chalky shirt, ocean tee. It looked perfect, and I bought it. If you saw me walking down the street, you’d barely notice it.