At a fashion show, it’s usually the clothes that get all the attention. But at Bottega Veneta’s spring 2023 outing in Milan, the spotlight was shared by the runway itself: designed by renowned artist and architect Gaetano Pesce, models streamed through what appeared to be a pastel river of melted crayons, lined with color-blocked, Rothko-on-acid resin chairs. “The idea was ‘the world in a small room.’ We went full on,” Bottega Veneta creative director Matthieu Blazy told Vogue’s Nicole Phelps of the commission at the time. “The idea was to represent different characters and put them in the landscape of Gaetano.”
Originally, the installation seemed to be a site-specific one, seen only by the fashion insiders and celebrities notable enough to score an invite from the storied Italian house. Yet Blazy has now chosen to make it globally accessible: from November 30 to December 4, Pesce’s chairs will be available for public viewing (and even purchase) at the annual Design Miami fair in Miami Beach.
The collection is called, appropriately, Come stai?—Italian for “how are you?” Blazy explains the deeper meaning behind the name in his foreword for a book about the project. An admirer of Pesce’s since university, he finally met the artist at his New York studio earlier this year to discuss a potential collaboration, where Pesce greeted him with the utmost warmth and homemade cookies. After an afternoon of dreaming up ideas together, the artist gave the designer a book. Blazy, in return, asked him to sign it. Pesce scrawled a simple inscription: “Hi Matthieu, Come stai? Gaetano.”
“You know, Matthieu, sometimes things won’t be easy, but if you open the book and read the question, Come stai?” Blazy recalls Pesce saying. “The answer should always be ‘Tutto bene!’”
Blazy felt both touched and inspired. “You sit to rest, you sit to have a moment for yourself or with someone,” he explains. “You don’t sit on a chair to go on a mission. It’s a pause, a moment of comfort. ‘Come stai?’ was that for me. It is very precious to be asked sincerely how you are. And what a beautiful name for a chair.”
Each of the 400 furniture pieces is unique, whether in its color or the motifs it features: one has a smiley face, one a rising sun, another a question mark. It turns out this rejection of uniformity (an unusual choice for chairs, generally sold in uniform pairs or sets) is very much the point. “It is about the human being; we are all different,” says Pesce. “People who say we are all the same—fuck them! We are all originals, and this is one of the themes of my design.”