From everything we’ve seen from Daniel Lee‘s Bottega Veneta, the resort 2021 collection is the most fun one. Was it the lockdown madness that let the designer take a more playful route? Lee has grasped that the world has changed dramatically and that the way we will want to dress has too. Hence the comfort and familiarity of that cotton and an emphasis on surprisingly homey knits, which represent an evolution of his thinking about all the stretch materials he used on his last runway. But there was no retreat into recuts or the safety of recent successes. “In the darkest moments creativity is so key,” Lee said. “It’s about making clothes you can’t find in other stores. Otherwise what’s the point?” Lee’s exploration of silhouette led him in a couple of different directions. His tailored jackets are sculptural in proportion with those full-legged pants, featuring nipped waists and a V-shaped construction in back that accentuates their shapeliness. Some of the garments look quite cumbersome, even if that exaggeration was intentional. But for all the emphasis on over-sized volumes, Lee also likes a lean, abbreviated look for women: say, a knitted top and matching fringed above-the-knee straight skirt, or a narrow minidress with one of the portrait necklines he’s made a signature. These leggy pieces have a straightforward sexiness, one that’s likely to be influential as designers and the women they dress search for the new post-crisis. But Lee undercuts the sexiness in these pictures with substantial lug-soled, lace-up boots whose vibe is cool and young. Another thing that won’t go unnoticed about this collection is its gorgeous, expressive, bold color palette, which seems to be taken straight out of Dario Argento’s Suspiria or an Almodóvar film. Lee matched a vibrant jade pair of his voluminous pants with a red tech mesh shirt, adding acid yellow pointy loafers and a chocolate brown bag for good measure. Then there’s the electric lilac hue of an A-line shearling coat, a color that reappears on a knit skirt suit and matching cardigan in what crafting circles would call the popcorn stitch, and the bubble gum pink of patent glove leather pumps with glittery acrylic heels. Fashion, at its most compelling, brings pleasure because it paints a vision of the future that looks fresh and new. If Lee’s playful printed dress in an intrecciato print of naked human bodies and the pouch bag in car seat cover wood beads the model carries with it become souvenirs of this strange lockdown season, it’s because they’re totems of a design team having fun. Who doesn’t want more of that in this moment?
All collages by Edward Kanarecki.
With today’s breaking news of Raf Simons co-designing Prada with Miuccia Prada (!!!!!) since next season, Daniel Lee‘s Bottega Veneta might not have that much attention it had for a while in Milan this coming September. Still, Lee evidently tries to win with the mainstream hype that started to abruptly surround the brand he shook up, and tries risky things. Painful colour combinations that look so bad they’re actually good. Volume plays that aren’t the easiest to pull off. Accessories which are distant to regular “it” bags and “it” shoes (fringed octopus clutches, rubber boots in neons). I’m aware that the audience’s memory span is too small for noticing all the Phoebe Philo and Céline references (really, every single look reminded me of a specific collection – and especially Philo’s now iconic swan song line-up, which was also the last for Daniel), so no surprise the collection’s edginess is this electrifying. For autumn-winter 2020, Lee decided to examine softness – something he has missed in his debut last year. “When you look at the brand’s beginnings, everything it made was so soft. I find that super inspiring.” That thinking informed the ready-to-wear he put on the runway. But equally, so did the fact that at the age of 34, Lee is part of the street wear generation that’s wearing trainers, sweatshirts with prints and any piece of clothing that puts an emphasis on cool and comfort. He asked himself, “How do we put ourselves together in a considered, elegant way but still feel comfortable?”. His answer was simple: stretch. Even the refined men’s tailoring was built with stretch in it, he said, so it moves with the wearer. He also put big emphasis on both knit dressing and jersey, for both day and evening. Movement is his other obsession. He said he’s been spending a lot of time at La Scala watching dance performances; he likes all kinds, from ballet to modern. No wonder why those sequinned maxi-dresses and coats with floor-sweaping XXL-fringes look so amazingly vibrant and energetic once they are worn and presented in motion. Expect this collection to sell out within hours once the pieces arrive to the stores.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
Maybe Daniel Lee‘s winning of nearly every nomination during the recent British Fashion Awards wasn’t such an exaggeration. His pre-fall 2020 collection for Bottega Veneta is so, so, so hot. First, he let colour in. The splashes of cobalt blue, rubber pink and sun-drenched ochre is a combination that will inject vibrance to your autumn wardrobe on a daily basis. Then, all the leather. Lee proves once again his respect for Bottega Veneta as a leather house, creating wonders. The signature intrecciato weaving goes XXL in coats and bags, the shoes get fun bubble quilts and the polished, over-sized pants have an amazing, butter-y texture. Also, something has shifted in Daniel’s ready-to-wear. Comparing to his last autumn-winter season, this one feels very sensual and body-friendly. Just take a look at the knitted dresses and tops with ankle-lenght fringes or the fluid-like sequinned eveningwear. Not speaking of the tailoring, which gets more and more refined with every season. And Bottega denim? A big yes.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
Daniel Lee‘s second collection at Bottega Veneta was the most anticipated moment of Milan fashion week. In fact, it’s the second collection that is the hardest: how to keep all the attention you had at the very beginning, excite everyone, and simultaneously be consistent? After his extremely promising debut and the global craze caused by the label’s pouches (they are a constant sold-outer on nearly each site) and so-fugly-it’s-good footwear, Daniel’s spring-summer 2020 was unexpectedly laid-back. Since all the Philophiles have turned into New Bottega fans, and they seem super assertive and passionate about it, it’s life-threatening to even say that I’m not really a fan of this collection. My first thought was that it’s the lazier version of autumn-winter 2019 line-up: same beaded dresses but in new colours, super over-sized coats, knitted dresses with sharp, at a first glance odd in positioning skin-baring details (as in case of men’s sweaters), leather bermuda shorts. The newest addition – the monkey printed silks – felt completely random. I might even say that I liked menswear more than womenswear: those blazers are to die for, not speaking of the black trench coat on James Turtlington (yes, this Turtlington). Bottega Veneta’s accessories thrive in being hot. Exaggerated weavings on the sandals are new take on the house’s intreciatto; the pouch clutch came in leather crotchet; the shoulder bags are bigger than ever. Still, the ready-to-wear missed the mark for me, as for the first impression. Maybe I’m saying that right now and I will change my mind when I see the clothes in stores.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.