daniel lee presents part two of his bottega veneta revolution
“I want it to be quite bold — otherwise what’s the point?”
It is a rare moment that a fashion show captures the zeitgeist and really resonates on a wider level, actually shifting the conversation about how we dress and what we want to buy. Bottega Veneta’s show was just that — it was a fashion moment, an agenda-setting event. It was the sophomore show of York-born Daniel Lee, who laid out his blueprint for our wardrobes with a confident, direct collection that was all about clothes (and the bags and the shoes. “It was about solidifying the things that we’ve become known for — and the reality of dressing; clothes to live in,” he explained after the show.
“I want it to be quite bold — otherwise what’s the point,” he added. “If you love it or hate it, at least you feel something. I don’t see the point of making fashion that doesn’t say something?” So what does his collection say exactly? Well, you can probably see yourself in these clothes. It wasn’t overwrought or overcomplicated, it was just really desirable with interesting. The menswear was more developed and wearable this time round — the key look was a slinky sweater, boxy blazer, leather Bermuda shorts and loafers worn with pulled-up socks. The womenswear seemed to be lighter, too, centred on sinuous knits, twisted and turned around the body — some with carseat-cover beading, others with asymmetric necklines.
Lee placed an emphasis on an entire array of form-flattering dresses that looked great with chunky jewellery, big bags and a pair of those auspicious intrecciato mules — and he demonstrated that they have a nocturnal spirit too, by throwing boxy trenches over them, nodding to that liminal period between leaving the house and getting to the cloakroom. There was a couple of halter-neck scarf tops with Matisse-like stencil-felt monkeys and pineapples, which he described as “cheeky” — but also explained that they related to the graphicness with which he always approaches his ready-to-wear.
Diehard style pundits have been snapping up ‘New Bottega’ like it’s ‘Old Céline’, Lee’s former employer. The square-toe shoes and clam-shaped pouches have been selling out in seconds (30, to be precise, as one department store confirmed) and, just like his alma mater, other designers and brands have been presenting suspiciously similar styles — a sign of just how pervasive his aesthetic is becoming. Next season, there’ll be plenty more of those blockbuster accessories: zebra mid-heel court pumps, wooden-handled intrecciato clutches, woven-satin loafers for men, slouchy hobo bags worn across the body. Interestingly, none of them rely on a logo or a branding gimmick.
There’s been a lot of buzz around Bottega Veneta and Lee in general. One of the smart things he’s done is to keep a sense of mystery around himself. He’s not on social media (though he did mention his family sweetly send him pictures of people wearing his clothes on Instagram) and he made every look in this show count for something. Of course, Bottega Veneta has always stood for ‘stealth wealth’ — it’s one of those leather houses steeped in the art of age-old craftsmanship and unparalleled quality, and its old motto was: “When your own initials are enough”. Lee seems to be drawing on that for vision, rather than simply referencing past decades or hackneyed fantasies.
As brands have a shorter lifecycle now and many luxury houses have adopted a mass market mentality — over-distribution, speedy and constant product drops, logos over quality, branding over substance — it is up to the powers-that-be at Bottega Veneta to pace its inevitable expansion. The set was a glass box in a Via Senato palazzo with a blown-up leather intrecciato floor and chubby leather poufs, a testament to how much the ante has been upped. Right now, it feels like an exciting and promising pasture, with a lot of hype — let’s hope Lee continues to assertively cut through the noise during his meteoric ascent.
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.