All change at Bottega Veneta: designer Daniel Lee moves on | Fashion

Daniel Lee, the designer credited with revitalising the luxury fashion label Bottega Veneta is leaving

Daniel Lee, the designer credited with revitalising the luxury fashion label Bottega Veneta is leaving the brand.

A statement announcing the news says it is a “joint decision to end their collaboration”. But it is a shock to the fashion industry. Lee, who joined Bottega Veneta in July 2018, has quickly made it one of the world’s hottest brands. During his tenure, designs had been worn by Rihanna, A$AP Rocky and Mary J Blige, and accessories including the “pouch” bag and woven leather “Lido” sandals became highly sought-after and much imitated. Sales rose 2.2% to nearly €1.2bn (£1bn) in 2019 and kept growing in 2020, despite the rest of the luxury market falling by 23%. In the third quarter of 2021, revenues rose 8.9% year on year.

Influencer Jessica Wang with the pouch bag at New York fashion week in 2019. Photograph: Christian Vierig/Getty Images

Fashion’s rumour mill has already suggested various reasons behind the split. Lee previously worked at Celine under Phoebe Philo and, with Philo’s own brand making its much-anticipated debut next year, industry insiders are speculating he may be joining her. “Welcoming all theories,” wrote Diet Prada on its Instagram post announcing the news. “Ours? LVMH has poached him back to work under Phoebe Philo’s yet-to-debut eponymous brand lol.”

Women’s Wear Daily suggests Lee’s ways of working had been difficult, with lots of staff members leaving Bottega Veneta. It quotes a source saying: “There’s no denying his talent, but on a personal level, handling relations is another matter – also given his working hours, often at night. So many people left, it was a revolving door.” A presentation in Detroit last month, and the stress involved putting it together, may be the event that led to Lee leaving the brand.

Models on the runway for Bottega Veneta’s AW20 collection, designed by Lee
Models on the runway for Bottega Veneta’s AW20 collection, designed by Lee. Photograph: Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

Teo van den Broeke, Style Director at GQ, also speculated that the working culture may be the culprit. “Did something untoward happen within the airy ateliers of Bottega Veneta’s Via Privata Ercole Marelli headquarters in Milan?” he wrote. “Chances are we’ll never know, but there’s little doubt that a seismic event occurred in order to precipitate such change at such speed.”

Lee’s Bottega Veneta had a disruptive approach to communication. Social media accounts, now a given for luxury brands, were deleted by Bottega Veneta at the start of 2021. While this was hailed as radical – and has since been copied by other brands – other pivots have been less successful. Bottega Veneta did not engage with digital fashion shows during the pandemic, and has since employed invite only salon-style presentations in London, Berlin and Detroit. An after-party in Berlin in April – during lockdown in the city – was criticised on social media. “This is so fucking immoral, we are in a MF lockdown here in Berlin,” wrote influencer Loona Hamilton.

Lee with Mary J Blige in Detroit last month
Lee with Mary J Blige in Detroit last month Photograph: Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Bottega Veneta

In the brand statement announcing the split, François-Henri Pinault, the chairman of Kering, the luxury group that owns Bottega Veneta, said: “I am very grateful to Daniel for having brought his passion and energy to Bottega Veneta. His singular vision made the House’s heritage relevant for today and put it back to the centre of the fashion scene. I would like to personally thank him for the unique chapter that he has written in the long history of Bottega Veneta.” Lee commented: “My time at Bottega Veneta has been an incredible experience. I am grateful to have worked with an exceptional and talented team and I am forever thankful to everyone who was part of creating our vision.”

While the statement ends with a note that “a new creative organisation for the House will be announced soon”, it is unclear who will take Lee’s place. Women’s Wear Daily suggest that the brand might promote a member of the design team, such as design director Matthieu Blazy. This strategy has been employed at Gucci, another Kering brand. Alessandro Michele, previously part of the design team, has had great success since becoming creative director in 2015.