Bottega Veneta: Lee makes grown-up and punchy debut
Milan’s big debut this season was at Bottega Veneta, where young British designer Daniel Lee presented a punchy, tough-chic fashion statement, riffing and revolutionizing many of the codes of this brand.
To his great credit, Lee, who arrived from working with Phoebe Philo, did very much his own thing. Neither playing on any wannabe Celine vibes, nor following slavishly fixed notions about the Bottega Veneta DNA.
The result was a quantum leap away from his predecessor, which is what this house needed, with the greatest respect to Tomas Maier, who helmed BV brilliantly for most of his decade-long tenure.
Lee’s signature look was probably a sexy policewoman, who strutted out in matelassé leather skirt and leather piqué men’s tuxedo shirt. Followed by many Matrix mavens, attired in leather padded leather trench coats nipped at the waist with big V buckle belts and anchored by mega hefty combat boots; and biker babes in mini motorbike blousons and Harley Davidson leather pants. Curiously, in a co-ed show, several men wore almost exactly the same coats.
Lee also impressed with metallic dusters; slimline and truly chic knit cocktails and some great accessories – notably the multi-buckle belts and elongated square-toe court shoes. All rather cleaned up and all very grown up.
It didn’t all work – his fitting on one ecru wool coat looked all wrong; plus the multiple catwalk was highly confusing to the cast, several of whom looked positively lost. Moreover, the staging was unlucky. Lee built a giant plastic tent at Piazza Sempione, whereupon an intense winter morning sun left his chic audience broiling for half an hour pre-show. That also underlined another slight flaw, many of the garments in the famed BV intreccio leather looked very heavy.
That said, this was a courageous debut, by a designer with a singular aesthetic and the pluck to go for it.
“I’m not very good with words. I did my best. It’s a process that began last April. I am happy with how it went. I suppose my starting point was what do you mean when you say Italian fashion?” said Lee.
“It was about trying to make beautiful clothes. But at least I brought the sun to Milan,” smiled the red-haired designer, in an utterly confused backstage, where PR staff continually told over a score of reviewers that they could not ask any questions, even though every one one of them did.
“I thought it was very, very good. A really strong fashion statement,” said Lee’s ultimate boss, an obviously happy François-Henri Pinault. Who, however, seemed even happier to talk about football. His family team Rennes beat Real Betis away in the Europa League 3-1, in a great foreign victory. Some things are almost as important as fashion.
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