Daniel Lee’s first collection for the Italian brand blends cozy layers and ultra luxe fabrics into one very wearable—and timely—mix.
The fashion world carousel never stopped spinning in 2018: designers exited brands (Kim Jones at Vuitton, Haider Ackermann at Berluti), joined new ones (Kim Jones at Dior, Virgil Abloh at Vuitton, Riccardo Tisci at Burberry), and returned to the game (Hedi Slimane at Celine). One of the most notable departures was that of Tomas Maier from Bottega Veneta, who took the leather goods label from niche bag brand into global player in the luxury fashion field over his 17-year tenure at the house. Equally notable was his successor: Daniel Lee.
If you’re unfamiliar with Lee’s name, you’re not alone. The designer wasn’t previously at the helm of a competing brand, or plucked from inside the B.V. studio, and his name wasn’t known outside fashion insider circles, either. But his pedigree makes him uniquely primed for the big leagues. He joined Bottega after a five-year stint at Celine as director of ready-to-wear under Phoebe Philo, and before that was installed in various design rolls at Maison Margiela, Balenciaga, and Donna Karan. Most notably, his time at Céline coincided with the brand’s ascent to the pinnacle of off-kilter luxury, inspiring cult-like devotion from its deep-pocketed fans. And with Philo out of the game for the time being, brands are keenly interested in converting her devotees to their own brands. And Lee’s first collection for the brand, Pre-Fall 2019, makes a very strong case for the idea that he’ll be able to do it for Bottega Veneta. For male Philo fans (we exist!), it’s also the first chance to get some of that cozy modernist magic direct from one of the sources responsible for it.
Arriving next spring, the lineup hits the reset button for the brand. Lee’s first designs don’t do away with the quiet luxury that Maier championed during his time, but they don’t follow it in lockstep, either. The first nine looks are an expert study in un-boring black-and-white dressing, mashing up fine tailoring and knitwear with sportswear influences, with everything given a luxury overhaul in the fabrication department. While there isn’t one defining silhouette for the whole lot, there are a few key aesthetic propositions. Lee likes his torsos long (visually assisted by tailoring and knits that are slim at the chest and longer in line, and coats that hit below the knee), his pants roomy (either cropped at the ankle or pooling far past it), and his shoes on the chunkier side (see: allover laced dad sneakers and Blundstone-esque round-toe boots). There’s an ease here, but also new proposals for what a modern man’s wardrobe might include (sheer layers anyone?). Refreshingly, Lee also appears to be having some fun with the sometimes-stiff luxury house’s DNA. Witness the fat woven “checks” in the bag from look 11, or look 24’s tonal band chest stripe, or the knee detail on a pair of leather trousers (look 26), all nods to the brand’s iconic Intrecciato weaving technique.
According the the collection’s press release, these are clothes “focused on an elevated reality of dressing, on the sensual physicality of clothes, pieces are made for life.” That’s good news, considering they’re going to come with a price tags that would take average Joes nearly as long to pay off. There’s more to come: Lee will show his first full collection for the brand at a co-ed show in February in Milan. But if this is just the appetizer, consider our appetite whet.
MORE STORIES LIKE THIS ONE