A Designer Inspired by Dutch Still Lives and Gay Pulp Fiction

As a child growing up in the center of Paris, Matthieu Blazy, the 39-year-old designer at the helm of Bottega Veneta, had a robust imagination. Though his father, Jacques, an art expert, and his mother, Christine Philips, a historian and researcher, would often take him and his twin sister, Julie, and their brother, Quentin, on trips abroad — to China, Mali and Burkina Faso — Blazy discovered more adventures in stories and cartoons. “I loved comics,” he said this past June at a cafe near his apartment in Milan. “Tom Sawyer was my childhood hero.” By his own account, he was a similarly spirited boy, which partly explains how he ended up at a Catholic boarding school in France and later at a military academy in England.

The tension between freedom and constraint would also come to define his career, which began in 2007 in Antwerp, Belgium, when he went to work for Raf Simons. The pair had met a year before at the International Talent Support prize in Trieste, Italy, where Simons, a judge of the competition, was introduced to Blazy, one of the finalists. In 2012, Blazy was hired as a head designer — albeit an anonymous one — at Maison Margiela Artisanal, where, even though the brand famously prefers to present as a collective, he was encouraged to indulge his own inventive whims. “It felt very liberating,” he said. “Up to the moment when it wasn’t anymore. With so much freedom, you stop challenging yourself.”

A stint at Celine followed in 2014, and with it another period of restraint. “I told Phoebe [Philo, then the house’s creative director] that I wanted to make clothes that are worn,” he said. “The idea of making a great trouser, for me, was enough.” But two years later, he was back with Simons, who brought Blazy to New York for his short-lived tenure at Calvin Klein. “We all got let go,” Blazy recalled. “It felt like a movie: I was on the street with my cardboard box.” Searching for a salve after the creative claustrophobia of working for a large corporation, he headed to Los Angeles to help his friend the artist Sterling Ruby, who was working on a fashion collection. After the launch, Blazy was invited to join Bottega Veneta’s design team in Milan.

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