The Rumours Are True

Daniel Lee will go to Burberry

Just two days after Riccardo Tisci presented his solemn Burberry show, the British brand announced that Daniel Lee would be joining the 166-year-old company. This rapidly confirms the rumours circulating then that it would be Mr Tisci’s last show. Daniel Lee’s name was repeatedly mentioned as the likely replacer. Such gossip rarely is mere chatter, not when journalists were sharing the speculation via Twitter and newspapers were reporting on the possibility of new employ with such fervour. Burberry had earlier refused to comment on what they consider to be speculative talk. Mr Lee now takes over as the brand’s chief creative officer, a position Mr Tisci held close to five years.

According to eager media reports, the new guy will take his post on 3 Oct (next Monday), which means his predecessor will have to clear out of his office this week. The appointment must have been confirmed at least a month ago, or around the time WWD broke the news of the possible new hire, quoting “industry sources”. Burberry CEO Jonathan Akeroyd who picked Mr Lee, said via a statement, “Daniel is an exceptional talent with a unique understanding of today’s luxury consumer and a strong record of commercial success, and his appointment reinforces the ambitions we have for Burberry.” That sounds similar to what the former CEO Marco Gobbetti, who hired Mr Tisci, said of the latter in 2018: “He is one of the most talented designers of our time. His designs have an elegance that is contemporary and his skill in blending streetwear with high fashion is highly relevant to today’s luxury consumer. Riccardo’s creative vision will reinforce the ambitions we have for Burberry.”

It is not known either if Mr Tisci chose not to renew his contract, which expires next year, or if he decided to leave now, rather than finish what could be his final season

There is no mention of why Riccardo Tisci decided to leave (no euphemistic reasons such as pursuing other interests). Was he asked to? It is not known either if Mr Tisci chose not to renew his contract, which expires next year, or if he decided to leave now, rather than finish what could be his final season. Mr Gobbetti and Mr Tisci are both Italians. They were colleagues at Givenchy, where the former was its chief executive. The designer—then relatively unknown—was hired in 2005 to join the French house. It is possible that the new CEO at Burberry wishes to work with someone of his own choosing, rather than inherit a name much associated with the previous top guy. The international press is also of the view that Mr Tisci’s hyper-modern, street-savvy, definitely sexy style, while appealing to younger customers (really? What about middle-aged politicians?), kept their long-time fans, particular those deemed unadventurous, away. Or, was it because Mr Tisci’s unduly expressive designs were just not luring shoppers into Burberry stores?

Looking at what he had achieved, Daniel Lee had a more measured approach at Bottega Veneta that balanced appreciable shapes with sensuality. However, his tenure—just three years—did not provide enough of the salient for us to make out a definitive, bankable style, although, to be certain, his bags, including standouts the Pouch and the Cassette, were refreshingly huggable in the wake of more structured luxury ones that followed the ‘It’-bag years. But, was influencer excitement around the brand sufficient? Mr Lee was born in Bradford, a wealthy city in West Yorkshire, England, where, interestingly, Burberry trenchcoats are manufactured. Before his breakout appointment at BV, he was a “protégé” at Céline, with a résumé that included stints at Balenciaga, Maison Margiela, and Donna Karan. It is often said that he “revived” BV, as if he had plucked it from the clutches of doom. Now, back on home turf, is he expected to bring about another such restoration to Burberry’s lost cool and pull? Let’s see. It’d be fascinating.

Photo: Instagram

Two Of A Kind: The Cassette

Did Philipp Plein think that without Daniel Lee at Bottega Veneta, we would forget?

Philipp Plein has released images of his pre-fall 2022 womenswear collection. No news there if it isn’t for this bag that is eye-catching—not for its exceptional beauty, but its similarity to one that many, many women (and men) have come to love: the Cassette. Bottega Veneta’s intreccio weave, even oversized (and especially so) is the object of intense desire and is a design very much associated with former creative director Daniel Lee. The German label’s version is not only imitative; it is a cheap-looking, floppy version of the original. What is especially shocking is the similarity of the colour too—not the Bottega Green, but this pale teal. Plonking the hideous logo right in the centre-bottom of the flap does not indicate that this bag is a work of total newness.

Now, Philipp Plein is not exactly the embodiment of rigorous originality or good taste, but you’d think Mr Plein would at least wait till the shock of Daniel Lee’s departure from Bottega Veneta has died down before attempting such an indiscreet stunt. Did he think that by next year, BV would phase out the Cassette so that his bag would be a timely stand-in? (Someone pointed out that his, pictured above, comes with a gold-chained shoulder strap. BV’s padded Cassette is available in gold-chained versions too!) Or did he believe that amid the collection’s garish, tacky, vulgar clothes that vogue.com’s Luke Leitch called “arresting (he used the word twice in a para!)”—think sequinned tracksuits or animal-print anything—women are not going to notice? Then, Philipp Plein is operating in the absence of shame.

Photos: (left) Philipp Plein and (right) Bottega Veneta

The Guy Who Gave You This Green

.…is leaving Bottega Veneta

The intrecciato weave in the Bottega Green. Photo: Bottega Veneta

We know that in fashion, it’s the coming and going that keeps the business in momentum. But when a designer, credited for reviving an unexciting house, leaves after just three years into his buzzy tenure, it’s hard to say if the leaving will do the the brand any good. Daniel Lee, as you have probably heard by now, is leaving Bottega Veneta. This comes just weeks after his show, Salon 3, staged in—of all places—Detroit. The loud collection was praised to the heavens by the media. It would seem Mr Lee, who posed shirtless on the cover of Cultured magazine for the fall 2020 issue that included the blurb “Prodigy”, could do no wrong. And then this surprising or, to better reflect the sentiment of the industry, shocking news. And just like that, he would be no more. Would the Cassette bag still be cool next month? And that gleefully bright Bottega Green? What happens to the stores given a new coat of paint?

It is not an easy green to wear, for sure. And it was not one to be the new black. Yet, some publications called it “colour of the year”. Fashionistas took to it like the proverbial moth to a flame. If there was one colour that dominated social media it was this green, so saturated that it could be considered too much. This is not Valentino red or Schiaparelli pink; this is green, with a particular brightness and intensity usually associated with goblins, the clothing of Leprechauns, and, of course, St Patrick’s day. No, not Starbucks, but—oh, yes—Grab! We tried to like it, but it was not speaking to us. Bottega Veneta’s spring/summer 2021 had so much of the green that it would make a convert of any green-averse, but we could only stand in a distance and observe, without, frankly, any envy.

The unmistakble and unmissable green that is the façade of the men’s store at MBS. File photo: SOTD

The truth is, we could not quite decide if we really liked the work of Daniel Lee, former ready-to-wear director at Celine, during Phoebe Filo’s stewardship. Not even after this many seasons at BV, not after he won four awards at the 2019 British Fashion Awards, not after the wild success of the crazy green. Mr Lee is no doubt technically skilled and chromatically gifted, but it is hard to describe one overaching aesthetic that could be ascribed to the brand. One tai-tai told us, “He started quite good at BV… but then he got weird. No one can wear his clothes.” We think there is sexy somewhere in his modern take of somewhat traditional shapes, but we can’t pin-point something so amazing that we’ll remember it even after Mr Lee’s Pouch bags and Wellies are long forgotten. Martin Margiela’s stint at Hermès was just three years longer than Mr Lee’s time at BV, but we do remember the house’s vareuse, that deep-V neckline that he had made quite his own, appearing on tunics, for example, worn over jumpers cinched at the waist with wide belts.

Many industry watchers thought Mr Lee’s resignation to be bad news for Kering, parent company of BV. No reason was given for their star British designer’s impending departure, or when his last day would be. Something did happen to precipitate the sudden exit, but we may never know. Although he told Cultured, “I’ve always been a people person and I like to be surrounded by world citizens from a richness of backgrounds”, WWD reported that he “clashed with several people within the company and was defined as ‘uncommunicative’.” In a statement issued to the media, Kering’s chief executive François-Henri Pinault thanked the designer for “the unique chapter” he brought to the house, which said the split is a “joint decision”. In January this year, BV removed all content on their social media accounts, purportedly to start on a clean slate. Could the end of Daniel Lee’s tenure allow Bottega Veneta to do the same with the design and the merchandise? Stay tuned.

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?

 

BV AW2020 P1

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”.

BV AW2020 G1BV AW2020 G2

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.

BV AW2020 G3BV AW2020 G4

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

 

Bottega Veneta Trench.jpg

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