After the abrupt departure of its former Creative Director Tomas Maier (whose tenure lasted 17 years) last year, the Italian luxury house announced the appointment of its new heir, Daniel Lee.
At the age of 32, the Englishman has a pretty impressive résumé (no wonder he got the job). He was most recently the director of readyto-wear at #OldCeline and prior to that, had served stints at Maison Margiela, Balenciaga and Donna Karan.
Much like the brand he now helms, Lee embodies a certain type of discreet luxury. He’s a young designer who isn’t after social fame or designs based on hype. "I’m both honoured and excited to continue the legacy that has been created at Bottega Veneta over the last five decades. Maintaining the ingrained codes of the House, craftsmanship, quality and sophistication, I look forward to evolving what has gone before, while contributing a new perspective and modernity,” Lee said in a statement.
His first collection (Pre-Fall) for the brand is a refreshing take on modern luxury. Throughout the collection, the fundamentals of Bottega are still very much present and felt—exquisite craftmanship, delicate natural fabrics and the unmistakable intrecciato technique—but injected with a distinctive newness. Silhouettes are relaxed yet at times formal, while colours are dark and yet, at times, gentle. The collection has even sparked comparisons to Lee’s former mentor Phoebe Philo, who was perhaps best known for her minimalist-essentialist designs.
For Lee’s runway debut, he took things up a notch. In a glasshouse between Arco Della Pace and Piazza Sempione in Milan, Lee presented 44 looks—dark, hard and almost dystopian-like, and of which 11 were men’s. All of them featured some kind of leather statement piece: maximised intreccio coats, drawstring parka, giant Mad Max-esque boots, chunky square-toed shoes, patched leather trousers and one racer jacket that looks almost like a leather armour. But there was elegance too—knitwear in thin and sheer versions as well as asymmetrical heavier forms with elongated sleeves.
In a menswear industry that is still very much into maximalism and streetwear, the new Bottega Veneta is a welcome breath of fresh air. Though under-the-radar, the fearless Daniel Lee is definitely the designer to watch, and one who could potentially fill the void that many Phoebe Philophiles are feeling.