Toeing the line between tradition and experimentation

It’s one thing to launch a fashion line and start from a brand new foundation. It’s quite another to take the helm of a household name in luxury fashion and guide it in a new aesthetic direction. Bottega Veneta’s Daniel Lee has done just that, having been appointed to the creative director position in mid-2018. Since then, Lee has established a new identity for Bottega, bringing its designs into the moment and reinvigorating interest in a brand that has experienced weaker demand in recent years. 

A Whole New Bottega

In order to retain brand loyalists and attract new fans, Daniel Lee had to think strategically about what to do with the most iconic symbol of the brand—the intrecciato woven leather, which has appeared on nearly every item the fashion house has produced in its fifty year history. While the current product array spans most categories, Bottega Veneta is, at its core, a leather accessories business.

Bottega Veneta Cabat tote bag in padded intrecciato woven lambskin
Bottega Veneta Cabat tote bag in padded intrecciato woven lambskin.

Lee’s creative team started out by playing with the scale and texture of the intrecciato weave, enlarging it into maxi weave and medium weave while preserving the small weave (the same scale as the original). Along with the new weave sizes, they chose bold hues for the debut like cobalt blue and bright red, giving the familiar pattern a modish twist.

Then, in a broader departure from the status quo, the design team padded the intrecciato, furnished it in suede (previously uncommon on Bottega products), and rendered it in curious trompe-l’œil (“trick the eye”) formats like perforated leather that only appears to be woven. They also developed new finishes that scrap the woven effect entirely, focusing more on material simplicity and clean lines.

Since Lee’s appointment, several new shapes have gained notable traction as new brand icons—instantly associated with the Bottega Veneta name and the ‘new chapter’ in the brand’s creative history.

Bottega Veneta Marie and BV Angle handbags
Bottega Veneta Marie and BV Angle handbags.

The Pouch and The Arco

Pre-Daniel Lee, Bottega Veneta was recognizable not so much for the unique shape of its handbags, but prized for the meticulousness of its intrecciato woven lambskin, which was supple yet durable, subtle but distinct. With those qualities in mind, the new creative team developed many new handbag styles for the brand including the Cassette, the BV Angle, and the Marie. None have garnered quite as much attention and excitement, however, as the Pouch and the Arco. Both are fresh and interesting shapes that appeal to new and existing customers alike.

Bottega Veneta The Pouch variations
Bottega Veneta The Pouch variations in butter calf, intrecciato woven lambskin, metallic crinkled lambskin, and hand-knit nappa loops (the Sponge).

The Pouch is a worthy successor to the Knot, a design which dates back to 2001. Instead of a traditional hard-sided clutch bag, the Pouch is structured with a frame closure but wrapped in soft, sculptural folds that beg to be touched. Lee uses buttery calfskin leather, traditional intrecciato woven lambskin, and other unconventional materials to create the Pouch. The oddest variant is made up of hundreds of tiny looped strips of lambskin, affectionately called the Sponge.

If the brand was looking for an instant “It” hit, the Pouch is the one. It has appeared all over social media, been spotted on celebrities, and sold out in key colors since it was introduced. Thanks to its simplicity, versatility, and interpretation in multiple materials (even natural cork!), the Pouch has achieved what many fashion labels try and fail to do—develop a new covetable, in-demand icon.

The Arco new handbag design from Bottega Veneta and Daniel Lee
The Arco new handbag design from Bottega Veneta and Daniel Lee.

The Arco is an equally compelling design that’s received a quieter response but is no less instantly identifiable. With a hardware-free design, open-flap top, and long handles, it’s adaptable in the ways it can be carried and styled, what it can be used for (business or casual), and like the other new handbag styles from the brand, comes in a variety of finishes from grainy calfskin to padded intrecciato butter calf and suede.

In similar fashion to the Pouch, the Arco shape is scaled, from a width of 75cm as an overnight travel bag to a lilliputian 29cm, which is best worn across the body with a long shoulder strap.

Fascinating Footwear

For the second-most important product category, Daniel Lee and his creative team completely rethought Bottega Veneta’s footwear. As a first order of business, they addressed the chunky sneaker trend for both women and men with the Speedster, an interpretation which is about as elegant and subtle as one can get while still technically being chunky.

To match the boldness of the new bags, various new women’s shoe shapes with eye-catching lines have emerged. Models like the BV Lido sandal, the Bloc pump, sandal, and boot, and the Stretch pump and sandal share a common feature: a square toe, not common in the fashion arena since the mid 1990s.

New Bottega Veneta womenswear
New Bottega Veneta womenswear.

They’re all also rendered in interesting new materials (similar to the handbag array) like maxi intrecciato, padded nappa, and technical mesh. Lee’s footwear has been met with much fanfare, as it stands out in a sea of otherwise been-there-seen-that designer shoes.

Men’s footwear has been given a similarly unique twist: combat boots with bonded lightweight rubber soles, square-toe intrecciato slippers, and chunky lace-ups on flexible crepe soles.

Staple Ready to Wear

For apparel, Daniel Lee and his team have already output several seasons of covetable, swoon-worthy staples that are current without touching too heavily on any obvious trends. For both men and women, the color palette is narrower, relying primarily on black, gray, and other neutrals, with the occasional pop of color or flash of metallic shimmer.

From the first few collections, we drooled over items like the nude embellished dress for women and the bonded calf parka coat for men, which both represented new and different textures within the brand’s ready to wear repertoires.

New Bottega Veneta menswear.
New Bottega Veneta menswear.

For Spring-Summer 2020, we love pieces like the belted shirt for women (in black and white)—part trench, part crisp blouse—and the simple crew-neck cashmere sweater for men (in gray and dark navy). Logo-emblazoned they are not, but sophisticated enough to catch the trained eye…they are.

Daniel Lee: Only The Beginning

Through a careful preservation of Bottega Veneta’s core tenets and a reimagination of the brand’s values, meanings, and virtues, Daniel Lee and his creative team have successfully reinvigorated a nameplate that was beautiful but boring. The creative director previously served on teams at Maison Margiela, Balenciaga, and Celine, all of which inform his sense of design cleanliness, interesting details, and timeless shapes.

Frankly, we’re in love with just about all of the new products coming out of the new Bottega, and can’t wait to see what the coming seasons will reveal, from reinterpretations of existing classics to experimental materials and entirely new icons.

It’s an exciting time.

Discover more new and important names to know: Greg Lauren, Maison Margiela, and Giovanni Bedin.

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