If you’ve noticed the fashionable flock around town sporting poofy quilted/padded sandals and mules and blown up balloon-like handle-free clutch bags for the last year –the real ones and the ubiquitous fast fashion knockoffs — that look and many other style trends of the last few years are courtesy of Bottega Veneta’s young Brit creative director Daniel Lee.
A veteran of Celine during its Phoebe Philo moment (its best ever) and Margiela, Lee’s last three years at Bottega brought fashion forward thinking to the rather traditional Milan based brand. Bottega has always been based around leather and woven leather handbags a.k.a. “the intrecciato weave” and shoes since 1966.
Lee reinvented the It Bag with his Pouch Bag, Cassette Bag in the color “Bottega Green” from his Spring 2021 collection, stretch fishnet sandals and the bright colored rubber Puddle Boots loved by Justin Bieber and Lil Yachty, which sold out as fast as they showed up.
Ironically, Lee did a well-reviewed show in Detroit a month ago that was attended by Lil’ Kim, Mary J. Blige and Kehlani. According to The New York Times, Kering, owned by Francois-Hernri Pinault (husband of Salma Hayek, a Bottega fan) and containing hot labels Gucci, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga reported revenues of 363.4 million Euros (roughly $417.73 million) in the third quarter, a growth of 9.3 percent over 2020.
The announcement of Lee’s departure from the brand, which Kering referred to as “a joint decision,” sent shock waves through the industry this week, leaving punters to start to speculate: Where is Lee going? A major designer line like Giorgio Armani? The creation of his own line of clothes? Designer musical chairs is now in motion again, with Kering no doubt eyeing other brand’s designers and assistant designers to keep Bottega’s momentum. It won’t be easy. Luxury financial analysts are suddenly shaking their heads and a lot of women in the world are starting to bemoan the fact that there aren’t all that many designers of luxury clothing who stick to chic but realistic looks like Lee. Most designer clothes shown on the runway now are not things you would wear to work at home, or even the occasional office visit.
In a statement, Kering chief executive François-Henri Pinault thanked Lee for “the unique chapter” he penned in the brand’s history. “His singular vision made the house’s heritage relevant for today and put it back to the center of the fashion scene,” Mr. Pinault said.
Lee and Bottega Veneta took home four British Fashion Awards in 2019, more than any other designer in history. Ironically, Wednesday night in New York the Council of Fashion Designers of America awards was being held, with the Englishman nominated for best international women’s wear designer of the year and international men’s wear designer of the year.
Since fashion week shows have now returned and WAH sweatpants have stopped selling out, there’s been a lot of questions about the future of high fashion. With the rise of streetwear and athleisurewear – and rising fabric prices and inflation – and the global pandemic hardly over – it’s clearly in the midst of a major transition. Let the music of the musical chairs begin!
Want the Daily Brief in your inbox? Sign up for our newsletters today.