Gaetano Pesce designs his first-ever handbag for Bottega Veneta

My dear mountains bag by Bottega Veneta and Gaetano Pesce

Italian Radical Design pioneer and octagenarian Gaetano Pesce has made his debut foray into bags as part of a collaboration with fashion house Bottega Veneta that was unveiled at Milan design week.

The two resulting handbags were designed to suggest different bucolic landscapes – mountains in one case and prairies in the other – each featuring a red disc for a clasp to resemble a rising sun.

My dear prairies bag by Bottega Veneta and Gaetano Pesce
Gaetano Pesce has designed two bags: My Dear Mountains (top) and My Dear Prairies (above)

“It’s an image that is optimistic when we have a reality that is not optimistic at all,” Pesce told Dezeen.

“Because we have Russia making war in Ukraine,” he added. “And they’re taking freedom from places where democracy exists and freedom exists. So in opposition to that, we can design something that is positive, something that is a message for the future.”

Grotto installation formed from resin-covered fabric sheets at Milan design week
The bags were on show as part of a grotto-like installation at Milan design week

The first bag, called My Dear Mountains, was born from an installation of the same name that Pesce designed for the facade of the Aspen Art Museum last year.

It features the same motif of the sun peeking out behind two towering mountains, realised using Bottega Veneta‘s signature intrecciato leather weaving technique.

Reminiscent of Pesce’s original watercolour painting, gradient colours were applied to the bag using an airbrush, while tiny tree-shaped ornaments protrude from its strap like spikes.

My Dear Praries, on the other hand, is a fringed bag that was designed to resemble rolling grass-covered hills, using an intricate crochet technique and leather in seven different shades of green.

At Milan design week, the two bags were displayed as part of an installation titled Vieni a Vedere, which saw the interior of Bottega Veneta’s boutique on the upscale Montenapoleone shopping street cloaked in sheets of resin-covered fabric.

Designed by Pesce himself, the intervention was designed to resemble a cavernous grotto, complete with wood carvings on the wall to suggest cave paintings.

Vieni a Vedere installation by Bottega Veneta and Gaetano Pesce at Milan design week
Its walls were formed from resin-covered fabric

As the earliest form of dwelling, the cave is meant to signify a new era for bag design, which Pesce says will eschew expected shapes and instead take cues from the form of other objects, humans or animals.

“The cave is the beginning of architecture and the bags are the beginning of a new figurative design,” he said. “Crossing Montenapoleone, I saw companies who are making bags and they are very traditional, like a rectangular bag with a handle – that’s it.”

“But I think a bag, like any other thing, can express reality,” he continued. “I believe it’s the only way to have an evolution in design. Otherwise, we continue always to do the same thing.”

Outside of Bottega Veneta boutique at Milan design week
The installation took over Bottega Veneta’s Montenapoleone boutique

Pesce is considered one of the early pioneers of Italy’s Radical Design movement of the late 1960s and early 70s, which emerged as an antidote to the rational, functional rhetoric of modernism.

With his newly launched bags, the 83-year-old continues his longstanding fascination with crafting everyday objects to look like other things – most famously his controversial Up5 armchair, designed to resemble a woman tied to a ball and chain.

This isn’t the first time the designer has collaborated with Bottega Veneta. Just last year, Pesce designed a swirling resin set for the brand’s Spring Summer 2023 show in Milan, complete with 400 unique chairs.

Vieni a Vedere was on show from 15 to 22 April as part of Milan design week. See our Milan design week 2023 guide on Dezeen Events Guide for information about the many other exhibitions, installations and talks that took place throughout the week.

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