Autumn in Chicago: when the air begins to fill with fog, punctuated more readily with rain; when beaches close, and the cooling summer breezes from Lake Michigan carry an increasing chill that skyscrapers suck and funnel, in gusts, through the streets. As the city’s eclectic architecture retreats behind a veil of inclement weather, the shift of seasons hastily calls for the smoky, peaty sting of single malt, generous collars, and rich wools.
In downtown’s business district, The Chicago Athletic Association hotel is an apt setting for Bottega Veneta’s FW17 menswear collection by Tomas Maier. Sometimes likened to The Doge’s Palace in Venice, the hotel’s elegant façade harks back to Bottega Veneta’s artisanal Italian heritage of fine tailoring and leatherwork. The collection’s discreet patterns and clean hardware echo the hotel’s ornate architecture in modern, pared back form. And on a cold Chicago morning, its luxurious essential elements like double-face cashmere, soft brushed wool, lamb shearling, buttery leathers, and crisp cottons step up to provide some much-needed insulation.
The history of the building is palpable in co-owner John Pritzker’s insightful restoration, which leaves ample room for its original grandeur to assert itself. Built in 1893 by eminent Chicago architect Henry Ives Cobb, it’s steeped in the boisterous glamour of its former life as an elite men’s club, where the distinguished would come to exercise, work, and play under one exclusive roof. Maier’s relaxed collection captures a similarly versatile spirit of unfussed ease, and a touch of sport. Combining roomy overcoats and bomber jackets, loose-fitting trousers, chunky boots and fine leather slip-on moccasins, classic structure and elegance take on a contemporary, confident slouch.
The concept for the nappa leather Dossier is to deliver streamlined functionality on the move. The slim but sturdy case for stowing documents and tech adapts to formal and informal settings, and the design’s balance of traditional craft and modernity is at home in the Chicago Athletic Association hotel’s refined interiors. In the wider environs of the city, the matte serigraphic stripe on the exterior storage pocket, and subtle intrecciato weaving, reflect Chicago’s recurring grids and bold architectural forms.
Crisscrossed with its busy network of trams, expressways and rivers, Chicago’s dynamic character can at once prove testing, gritty and exhilarating. While Maier’s collection may well adapt Bottega Veneta’s strong sense of tradition to this intense, modern way of life, the departure is not an abrupt one, but rather leans forward, setting its own pace, as ever.