Pop Culture

Why Is Daniel Lee’s Hugely Successful Run at Bottega Veneta Ending?

Daniel Lee, the boyish Brit who joined Bottega Veneta as creative director in 2018, is leaving the Italian luxury brand, which announced today that the house and designer have come to a “joint decision to end their collaboration.” During his tenure, which lasted just over three years, Lee repositioned the low-key leather goods house as a cornerstone of the luxury hype movement, making lime green (“parakeet,” in house parlance) a cult-like signature, jumbo-sizing the house’s intrecciato into art-fair must haves, and garnering adulation from celebrities including Kanye West and Mary J. Blige as well as fellow designers like Virgil Abloh.

The announcement came as something of a shock, given Bottega’s stellar financial performance under Lee’s tenure; the designer presented his Spring 2022 collection in a buzzy destination show in Detroit, Michigan just last month. Kering said it plans to announce “a new creative organization” for Bottega “soon.”

Lee, who is 35, came to Bottega as something of an unknown in July 2018, but he was pitched upon his arrival as a designer in the low-key, tasteful mold of Phoebe Philo, with whom he had worked at Celine. If his first few collections indeed seemed poised to speak to the so-called Philophiles, with ambivalently minimalist pieces in oversize silhouettes, he soon found his own language, making industrially-inspired garments in unexpected and even confounding fabrics like latex-finished lambskin. His Detroit show, for example, featured pieces made out of cotton blended with metal, which gave the collection a static aggression. Most successful were his accessories, though: he pumped up the house’s famous “intrecciato” woven-leather handbags into wild proportions, and his enormous stompers and bulbous rain galoshes in freaky-organic tones remain bestsellers even among a hype-driven consumer base that moves on swiftly from trendy grails.

He made an equally impactful splash with the brand’s marketing. Under Tomas Meier, who led the brand for almost two decades, Bottega was known for a discretion that amounted to a whisper—a reputation Lee stretched and tweaked with a millennial’s sophistication. Though at first he granted interviews and even posed shirtless for the cover of Document in September of 2020, he eventually turned the company into a pinnacle of inaccessibility in the “main character” age of Instagram fashion, deleting his own Instagram account, and then deleting the house’s own. Seemingly in its place, Bottega launched a digital zine—a high-production, image-only effort filled with artist’s takes on the Bottega line and high-wattage talent, like Travis Scott and Missy Elliot. While many fashion observers appreciated the challenge to the industry’s digital norms, others were left confused by the brand’s messaging. (The house became unusually reliant on the fan account @newbottega to promote their news and efforts online, for example.) Fashion dinners during the shows in Paris this past October were filled with chatter about the effectiveness of the strategy—though, of course, a little confusion isn’t such a bad thing. Lee’s choices were always slightly left of center, which no doubt contributed to Bottega’s current hype, especially for millennial and Gen Z customers, who are rarely cynical about corporate stratagems for coolness.


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