Magazine Biz

The first issue of Bottega Veneta’s adoption of ‘traditional’ media

Social media, no; magazine yes. So that’s the stand at Bottega Veneta after quitting Instagram and the like in January. The digital magazine, Issued by Bottega, appears to be the work of creative director Daniel Lee. It is a lively mix of content, featuring artists from many disciplines, which could mean that the magazine provided Mr Lee the opportunity to work with those he admires, who are mostly not in the field of fashion. Increasingly, fashion designers are expressing themselves outside of clothing/accessory design, taking on roles that show how much an all-rounded creative they each are—from photography to art to interiors to furniture and, of course, to magazine editing. Interestingly, Kim Jones, too, has put together a magazine—his first—by guest-editing this month’s Vogue Italia. But it is probably Mr Lee who is having the best time editorially. Issued by Bottega 01 is not assembled for paid consumption; it is a marketing exercise with a sizeable budget that tells the brand’s own story or whatever from its point of view, rather than content to inform viewers of the world around them.

This is not a magazine to read, even when it is described by BV as medium that’s traditional. It is heavy with graphical and visual cleverness, and scant of text, witty or otherwise. Words are mostly spoken or sung. It’s presented in a portrait orientation, but is formatted to take on the size of the screen you choose to view (including the PC monitor). The pages, comprising both stills and videos, can be flipped like a conventional magazine (you can swipe left or right, and each time it comes with a highly digitised sound of a page turned). There’s an inverted equilateral triangle on the top left corner. Click on this and you’ll be shown the contents page, organised not by stories and corresponding page numbers, but the names of the contributors of this issue. They include the Polish designer Barbara Hulanicki, most known as the founder of the British store Biba (where a teenaged Anna Wintour once worked); the hip-hop artist always associated with Adidas, Missy Elliot; the Chinese industrial designer and Pratt Institute alum Yi Chengtao (易承桃), and even the unlikely Japanese balloon artist Masayoshi Matsumoto. This is what SPH’s The Life Magazine—published in 2014 and folded not long after—could never look like.

“Lose your head, not your mind,” the magazine says. And how do they make you do that? They don’t, really. It is just page after page of images after images after images. If the now-defunct Visionaire had a digital life, this might be it. But, none of BV’s images really makes you stop to think or marvel. There are videos of parkour in action, roller-skating a la Xanadu, balloon art demo, accessories niftily transformed from before to after shapes, wobbly jellies of boot and bags (our fave), close-up of cello and sax performance (with strategically place jewellery) and photographs of heeled slides made of food stuff (a shoe design competition “challenge”?), folded clothing framed like art, not spectacular fashion spreads (including one featuring art and dress), spoken and written interviews, and a performance (sort of) by Missy Elliot. And like all magazines, the obligatory ads, only these come from one brand. It is quick, in fact, to see that Issued by Bottega is, at the end of all the song and dance and wobble(!), a good, old-fashioned catalogue.

As the flipping is so easy (no licking of fingers necessary), you’d come to the end of the magazine in three-and-half minutes (well, we did). In parts, it has visual heft, but as we flipped, we kept thinking we were on TikTok! What’s the point, we had asked. There isn’t, probably. It all seems to share the content development finesse of the average KOL, only the pages were better shot and, in some, well art-directed. The reality is, many of us are no longer getting the satisfaction out of mags, September issue or not, the way we did. Magazines—or catalogues—have not been able to move to the digital realm with content, nor a pretty picture, that can capture both hearts and minds. With the first, mixed-bag issue, it isn’t clear how Bottega Veneta’s attempt at magazine making will pan out. But, in the mean time, there’s always Gwyneth Paltrow making a fool of herself on vogue.com.

Screen grabs: Bottega Veneta

Not Quite Near Delicious Perfection

Bottega Veneta is, as most media outlets have dutifully ensured, back in the news. Majorly. Both leather goods and the ready-to-wear are selling like hot cakes, but are they truly baked?

 

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We have resisted writing about Bottega Veneta’s dramatic resurgence. British designer Daniel Lee is very much in the news, of course—the ‘It Boy’. But given the dubious history of the descriptor ‘It’, we did not want to rush into making a firm opinion of his walk with the brand. He’s now only into his third season, and already journalists are saying “he has the goods to back that up”. Has he? Rare is the designer who can grab headlines and hearts when newly installed at a house, but Mr Lee could, cleverly introducing a new bag silhouette as teaser and signature of what he hoped to forge for the house. For Bottega Veneta, the wait was over, sans protracted interim. The fashion world is constantly waiting for the next Boy Wonder—from Tom Ford to Simon Porte Jacquemus—and in Daniel Lee, he has arrived.

We sometimes wonder if we want the old Céline so badly and missed Phoebe Philo so desperately that we’d quickly open our arms to anything that hints at the French brand’s old DNA or anyone who had crossed paths with the once feted designer. Or, are we so eager for Bottega Veneta to return to its former glory that we are keenly willing to pat the shoulders of whoever comes along to revive it? And, as Mr Lee does, amassing fans—consuming and not alike—he has effectively presented himself to be a millennial designing for fellow Gen-Yers. As Female noted in a headline, echoing so many other mags, “Bottega Veneta’s Fall/Winter 2020 Collection Might Be Its Most Instagrammable Yet”.

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This is how fashion is now judged: not on design merit, not on extreme creativity, not, hack, on how good they would look on consumers, but how “Instagrammable”! These clothes would not be sold and worn, and worn by the enamoured; they have a date with IG and following that, a rotational life in Style Theory. As such, they need not bear the weight of designs that won’t be picked up by any one of the four lenses that now come with many smartphones, or be registered on their OLED screens, even if they’re 4K-ready. They need only to be photogenic, appear cool and, in the case of the new Bottega Veneta, seem subversive (a Vogue obsession). Everything else is relative and immaterial; everything else is besides the point.

These clothes may be Instagrammable, but they strain to stand out. You may look good (good is, sadly, good enough) in them, but they jostle with what other influencers, IG regulars, or the minions that make Fashion Week the veritable circus that it has notoriously become tend to wear for attention. Many pieces would not be out of place on an as-amped-up Michael Kors runway. Two sweater-knit shirts and layered fringed skirts certainly are evocative. Or, an open-work shirt with a tank-dress in the same fabric. They share a similar relaxed glamour, involving movable, shimmy parts, that Mr Kors has a weakness for, as well as the halterneck, and the oversized notch lapels commonly seen on fur and shearling coats. One shimmery, high-neck, long-sleeved gown in beige—we totally see Rene Russo falling for. And, yes, Rene Zellweger too.

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This season, one detail stuck out like ripped knees on pants: the deliberate placement of shirt collars over lapels of jackets. It appears a little too newscaster-proper to us—CNA would certainly relate to. The broadcaster might want to consider Kaia Gerber for the afternoon news, whose outfit is memorable only because the wearer looks like she’s strolling, on the first day to work, at a small law firm. Yet, Highsnobiety, was bowled over enough to imagine Ms Gerber a potential rock star: “Your pals have just started a new indie band and have somehow convinced Kaia Gerber to play the bass”. How that look can be evocative of “a lascivious dollop of rock and roll” may be beyond the ken of an average live stream viewer, with No Time To Die playing in the background.

Cleverly, Mr Lee does not crib from his previous tenure. It would be impetuous to say he tried to, but it really does not appear that he did. After all, Céline was not Maison Martin Margiela. It’s been only three seasons, we hear those who differ say. To that, we agree. Let’s not gush yet; let’s wait to see real subversion.

Photos: Alessandro Lucioni/gorunway.com

 

(2019) Winter Style 2: The Two-Tone Trench

A classic trench coat that’s not quite

 

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Daniel Lee has done things for Bottega Veneta that women of very specific taste adore, so much so that not only is the maker of the famed intreccio leather now trending madly, its designer is winning more fans after being awarded thrice at this year’s British Fashion Award: Designer of the Year, British Designer of the Year—Womenswear, and Accessories Designer of the Year.

The accolades perhaps explains the “Bottega effect”, accelerating its trickling down to the high street. Mr Lee, former director of ready-to-wear at Céline under Phoebe Philo, has not transformed Bottega Veneta the way Nicolas Ghesquière has for Louis Vuitton, for instance. Yet, the effect is apparent, even palpable. Mr Lee called it by the vague “done-up elegance”, which is, in essence, gently tweaking what is considered classics, such as this single-breasted trench coat.

What is, perhaps, appealing for many women, is that the coat comes in a recognisable form, including details such as epaulettes and cuff straps. Nothing too out there. But the British designer is able to make small adjustments that at one look, one knows this is an outer with a difference. He has simplified the trench by making it single-breasted and by removing the storm flap, even at the back. And instead of knee-length, he has chosen to bring the hem near the calves.

But the most striking feature has to be the bi-coloured, bi-textured effect. The base of the trench coat is in a grayish poly-cotton gabardine, and the top half of the body bonded with black leather (which leaves the underside of the collar untreated, yielding an appreciable two-collar effect). But this is not the horizontal separation of colour (usually split at the waist). Mr Lee, instead, chose a diagonal diversion, which give the trench an appealing duality: part cool-classic, part rebel-tough. In the presence of the abundance of oversized track tops and ever-larger puffers, this is definitely more desirable and spot-on chic.

Bottega Veneta trench coat, SGD6,750, is available to order in stores and online. Photo: Bottega Veneta