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5 moments that defined Daniel Lee's era at Bottega Veneta

From the debut at the Arco della Pace in Milan to the semi-legal party at the Soho House in Berlin

5 moments that defined Daniel Lee's era at Bottega Veneta From the debut at the Arco della Pace in Milan to the semi-legal party at the Soho House in Berlin

In a brief but incendiary press release last night, Kering announced that Daniel Lee's era at Bottega Veneta has ended after just three years. Although very short, Daniel Lee's reign has had a huge influence on the fashion industry: over the course of 11 collections, which went from Pre-Fall to 2019 to the SS22 a few weeks ago, Lee revived a brand that fell into oblivion without ever using a logo; with his Puddle Boots he relaunched the trend of rubber boots then adopted by any other fashion brand; has made a particular shade of emerald green one of the most iconic and recognizable colors of the luxury market and with his campaigns shot by Tyrone LeBon he invented a new idea of glamour, as fascinating as it is enigmatic. They have also been three years full of controversy: from the alleged plagiarism of the jewels of Elsa Peretti, David Webb and Niccolò Pasquetti, passing through the controversy over the absurd price of plastic and silver necklaces in the shape of a telephone wire, to the shitstorm that surrounded the notorious semi-legal party in Berlin and the latest rumors of the strong tensions aroused by Lee in the management of the company – the navigation of the brand was very fast but also very not very quiet. 

All these events revolve around the personality of Daniel Lee, described by an anonymous source of WWD with the emblematic adjective of«uncommunicative» and therefore shy and mercurial – which has given so much to the historic brand with its creativity but which has taken so much away from it in terms of stability and security. In the aftermath of the designer's farewell, as a cloud of gossip begins to spread around the story, the future seems uncertain – and that's why we wanted to retrace the short, brilliant, intense era of Daniel Lee from Bottega Veneta remembering it through five key moments.

1. The runway debut in Milan

Lee's official debut at the helm of the brand was not a fashion show but a lookbook, that of the Pre-Fall 2019, a solid collection, which had established the new language of the brand with great confidence, but which, being after all only a presentation, had remained relatively under the radar. Everything changes with the first live show for the FW19 collection, presented at the Arco della Pace in Milan. It is an ambitious debut, which proposes a new boxy silhouette, organized through degrading levels of texture ranging from the buttery softness of leather to the structured rigidity of wool blazers. The boots are shiny, rounded and monumental; the capricious and bizarre bags and accessories – it is an unconventional luxury, in open rupture with tradition but strangely hyper-tactile, fascinating. His language will refine during 2019, finding a highlight in the SS20 presented at the Brera Academy, and reinforcing its effect with very solid Resort and Pre-Fall collections. The myth of Daniel Lee was born.

2. The first Puddle Boot

Lee's FW20 is perhaps one of his best fashion shows. The light installations that reproduce neoclassical arches, the hypnotic and gloomy violins that seem to come out of Interview with the Vampire, the almost surgical cuts of the silhouettes, the cascades of fringes, the proportions. The breakout star of the show, however, goes unnoticed at the beginning: it is the Puddle Boot. A single-color, rounded rubber boot, which made the rounds of social media and became perhaps the most desirable shoe in the world after Balenciaga's Triple S. Retrospectively, in fact, the success of the Puddle Boot has surpassed that of the collection itself – but above all it has influenced the production of rubber boots with rounded shapes by any fashion brand and definitively launched the trend of luxury rubber shoes.

3. The withdrawal from social media

The first sign of Lee's shy and uncommunicative personality was also the boldest and most successful social media marketing choice in recent history: disappearing from all social media, entrenching oneself behind an intriguing and impenetrable smokescreen, creating a feeling of glamour and mystery. A move that catapults the brand to new heights but that, thanks to the presence of the mouthpiece page @newbottega, keeps the brand's grip firmly at least on Instagram and completely unofficially. The total success of the surprising decision to retire from social media came at a time when brands relied more than ever on social media marketing but it was the very first sign of Bottega Veneta's new visibility strategy: hiding to be searched.

4. The first secret show in London

The logic of the fashion industry would require, at least theoretically, that a show be a moment of very high visibility. But even here the strategy of Lee's absence subverted expectations: in December 2020 a lookbook of the Salon 01 show secretly held two months earlier at Sadler's Wells in London was presented with VIP guests including Kanye West. Lebon's photos documented a unique event: a rare presentation in real life, kept secret among a small circle of initiates that includes stars and cultural pioneers. The very definition of experiential luxury with all the charm of a secret society. The irony lies in the fact that this type of presentation represents a model that is not futuristic but rather centenary: that of the very first fashion shows among the women of high society in the early '900 but also that of the underground shows of Raf Simons and Margiela.

5. The party in Berlin during the lockdown

The presentation at the Berghain in Berlin was, in hindsight, Daniel Lee's jumping of the shark. The moment when the stupendous ambiguity of his attitude suspended between shyness and haughtiness appeared not in the light of mysterious glamour but of the most brazen elitism. Celebrities invited from half the world who did not respect the mandatory quarantine, very few masks in sight, a blatant disregard for curfews and distancing at a time when the whole city was still in lockdown. An Instagram user defined the event as «an iconic slap in the face of the whole city» while the world of clubbing almost revolted and began to chase reports from many whistleblowers who denounced the total secret in which the party took place behind closed doors. Not surprisingly, the secret show in Berlin also marked the end of the secret presentations and, again in hindsight, the lack of a Resort collection between the FW21 and SS22 was perhaps the biggest and ignored omen of Daniel Lee's imminent farewell to the brand.