When Tomas Maier assumed the role of creative director at Bottega Veneta in 2001, the luxury Italian house was at a turning point. Following its inception in 1966, the family-run became synonymous with elegance thanks to its iconic leather-weaving techniques. After all Intrecciato continues to mark Bottega Veneta’s collectible Cabat, Knot and Veneta bags today.

But when “bling” culture was born in the early 2000s, the luxury market changed drastically. With Bottega Veneta on the brink of bankruptcy, then-Gucci head Tom Ford persuaded the brand’s parent company, Gucci Group, to hire a German designer with a penchant for understated elegance.

He was absolutely right. Fast forward today and Maier has turned Bottega Veneta into a profitable empire. At Bottega Veneta, Maier designs men’s and women’s ready-to-wear clothing, along with housewares, furniture, watches, porcelain, and jewelry. But it is his leather accessories—bags, shoes, wallets—that are the label’s signature, and its best-selling items. “We are a luxury brand defined by four principles that we call our “cornerstones”: fine quality materials, extraordinary craftsmanship, contemporary functionality, and unique, timeless design.

We are not a luxury brand with visible logos, secondary lines, or celebrity spokespeople” he said. “Bottega Veneta has its roots in the leatherworking traditions of Italy’s Veneto region. I knew there were extraordinary craftspeople in the company workshop—people with rare skills that had been passed down through generations—and I believed there was a market for a particular kind of understated luxury based on fine craftsmanship and innovative design.”