How Matthieu Blazy Transformed Bottega Veneta

Mr. Blazy has become the epitome of an alternative approach: a designer who puts himself second to the products, the people who make them and the people who buy them. “He doesn’t see himself in the driver’s seat of the company,” said François-Henri Pinault, the chief executive of Kering, the group that owns Bottega Veneta. “He sees himself in the middle of the car.”

Which is not to say he doesn’t know exactly where everyone is going.

“I said I wanted to go against the stream of the monovision,” Mr. Blazy said, talking about his initial pitch to Mr. Pinault. He was in his office in the Bottega Veneta headquarters in Milan, wearing a white Patagonia T-shirt and faded jeans.

He told Mr. Pinault he thought Bottega should focus on craft, rather than design; that it should be “a house, not a brand.” That may sound like semantics but is the difference between a garment that advertises its point of origin and a garment that slips seamlessly into a wardrobe. And it was very different from the approach of Mr. Lee, who had made Bottega so associated with a single color — a bright, herbalicious green — that you could identify a piece from blocks away. It also explains a lot about how Mr. Blazy approaches not his job, but the world.

When he moved into his office, which was a white box, he had the walls repaneled in wood tinted a rich brown so they looked like a “chalet in Chamonix,” and the room felt more domestic. Now it is anchored at one end by a seating area with an Isa Genzken Nefertiti head on a pedestal and, at the other, by a long table for meetings. The table has a bowl of Ricola lemon mint lozenges, but no computer.

“I did not open a computer for the last six months,” Mr. Blazy said. “I have two, but I don’t use them so much. I sketch a lot and talk a lot and look at books, and I have a phone.” On the floor, below enormous windows, were 16 different piles of paper, each one corresponding to a different collection or project: perfume, new store concepts, the fanzines he creates with people he admires (most recently the British designer Hussein Chalayan, which involved Mr. Chalayan playing with pen and ink, watercolor and glitter to draw pieces from Mr. Blazy’s last show).

On the walls were a series of artworks. Mr. Blazy collects first drafts. It started, he said, because that’s all he could afford, and he liked the idea that they were “the first expression of something.” Then, he said, he couldn’t stop.