Bottega Veneta Shakeup: Creative Director Daniel Lee Will Exit the Brand

The Celine veteran is credited with bringing fashion forward thinking to the Italian fashion during his three year run

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.

PARIS, FRANCE – OCTOBER 02: A guest wears a beige with green neon inscriptions hoodie sweater, a neon green blazer jacket, a royal blue electric shiny leather Cassette handbag from Bottega Veneta with a gold chain, a gold shiny leather wrap short skirt, a silver watch, a silver bracelet, silver rings, neon green ribbed socks from Balenciaga, dark green leather open toe-cap pumps heels sandals, outside Vivienne Westwood, during Paris Fashion Week – Womenswear Spring Summer 2022, on October 02, 2021 in Paris, France. (Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)

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.

BERLIN, GERMANY – NOVEMBER 02: Sonia Lyson is seen wearing Miu Miu boots, green jogger pants Zara, cardigan and top in purple &other stories, teddy coat Twenty Fall in green, beanie Acne, Bottega Veneta clutch on November 02, 2021 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Christian Vierig/Getty Images)

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.