While Gucci, Prada and Versace have long reigned supreme over Milan Fashion Week, it’s the quieter Bottega Veneta — the Italian leather house founded in 1966 — that has everyone talking, ever since 33-year old English designer Daniel Lee joined the luxury brand as creative director in July 2018. He succeeded Tomas Maier, who stepped down from the position after 17 years in the role.
The brand, long praised for its understated, logoless luxury, caters to those wanting to dress wealthy but not stick it in your face à la Gucci or Louis Vuitton. And it’s what continues to set it apart at a time when fashion is dominated by maximalist brands and loud marketing
Bottega Veneta’s nascent creative director Daniel Lee has slowly been defining a new set of design codes for the Venetian leather goods brand, which was founded in 1966.
And though he continues to remain true to Bottega’s famed mantra, “When your own initials are enough”, by producing clothes that whisper luxury rather than scream it, he’s also embossed his own, very specific mark on the Kering-owned label.
Lee’s AW20 collection, for instance – which is in stores now – is a super-slick symphony of stealthily luxurious pieces: such as oversized Cabat shoppers in an expanded take on the label’s woven Intrecciato leather and immaculately tailored mohair great coats.
But making expensive clothes is something most fashion designers are capable of, so what’s Lee doing so differently?
Bottega Veneta Spring Summer 2020 collection, shown in Milan yesterday, he proved he not only understands how to create garments that people really want to wear (word has it that the world’s biggest retailers struggle to keep key pieces in stock for more than a few days), but he also has an uncanny ability to manufacture “cool”.
They were, he said “clothes to live in … solidifying the icons and the things that we’ve become known for” but rooted in “the reality of dressing and close to living”. While it won’t be everyone’s idea of everyday clothes, no less the former Bottega customer, Lee’s growing fanbase says otherwise.
The most popular pieces from his last collection were unquestionably his slip-on leather heels and he continued what is sure to be a winning streak today. This time they featured the unique woven method called Intrecciato which the brand owns and has purveyed for years. Bags – another brand staple – came in the same design. The classic hobo bag was given the XXXL treatment and came slung around the body, while moulded wooden box clutches were new.
“Every collection so far has felt an evolution to what we’ve ever done before. Since I first met with [Bottega Veneta owner and Kering CEO] Francois Henri Pinault and was deciding what I wanted it to be, its felt like a constant evolution.”
While financial confirmation of his work is yet to be posted, the palpable sense of its success will be assuring Pinault he has backed a winner with Lee’s appointment. In the midst of a month’s worth of shows, highlights like this stand out.
“I want to be bold – otherwise what’s the point?” reasoned Lee. “I want to make a statement – I don’t see the point in making fashion that doesn’t say something. You love it or you hate it but that’s human nature.”
What’s refreshing was that the collection didn’t pretend to be more than what it was. There were no unnecessary gimmicks and no forced idea of branding. What you see, is what you get. And what you’d get is basically a collection that you can easily manipulate to fit your style. Because like Lee said, “it’s for you.”