In a move that shocked the fashion world, and less than a month after staging a high-profile show in Detroit in front of an audience including Mary J. Blige, Lil ‘Kim and Kehlani, Italian luxury brand Bottega Veneta known for her signature intrecciato weave, has announced that she is separating from her creative director, Daniel Lee.
Mr Lee, 35, who started at Bottega as a stranger, had been at the brand for just over three years, although by this time he was credited with reviving the old house stilted and giving it a cool, contemporary veneer. Which made it, of course, very hot.
The news came hours before the Council of Fashion Designers of America awards show, where Mr Lee, who is British, was nominated in two categories: International Women’s Clothing Designer of the Year and International Clothing Designer. for men of the year, and two weeks before the Fashion Awards in London, where Mr. Lee was named designer of the year.
In a statement, François-Henri Pinault, CEO of Kering, the luxury group that owns Bottega Veneta, thanked Mr. Lee for “the unique chapter” he wrote in the history of the brand.
“His singular vision made the heritage of the house relevant to today and put it back at the center of the fashion scene,” said Mr. Pinault.
In 2019, Mr. Lee won four British Fashion Awards for his turnaround, including Designer of the Year and Brand of the Year – more than any other designer had won overnight in the history of the event, including Alexander McQueen. and Stella McCartney. Her pocket bag, presented shortly after arriving at Bottega, was a huge hit, as were her woven square-toed pumps.
Indeed, Mr. Lee introduced such a clear identity for the brand – an identity built on some kind of rigorously modern engineering – that a tangy, saturated shade of lime green became known as “Bottega Green.” practically overnight. (A notable achievement considering how many years it took Tiffany to own her signature blue, or Christian Louboutin to claim red soles.)
Last month alone, Kering – which also owns Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Balenciaga, among other brands – reported third-quarter revenue of € 363.4 million (around $ 417.73 million), i.e. growth of 9.3% compared to 2020.
This despite the fact that in early 2021, Mr. Lee took the counterintuitive step of deleting Bottega Veneta’s social media accounts. The move followed his earlier decision, during the pandemic, to avoid the broader fashion week schedule, opting instead to rename his mixed shows Salon 1 and Salon 2 (Detroit marked Salon 3) and hold them where and. when he heard it.
In the press release, Kering did not say when Mr. Lee would officially leave his job, or who would replace him, although he called the separation a “joint decision.” If so, it came as a surprise to most of the fashion world, an industry where designer change is typically prevalent long before it happens (often even if it doesn’t). and where the designer-brand tension usually arises when sales plummet (or don’t take off in the first place) or mutual discontent begins to sink – which didn’t seem to be the case at Bottega, despite a high staff churn rate . Indeed, Mr. Lee’s job was considered largely safe. In Detroit, after his recent show, he had practically tiptoed in excitement.
“Stunned!” said Ken Downing, Creative Director of Triple Worldwide, the company behind the American Dream Mall in New Jersey. “The news of Daniel Lee’s departure from Bottega Veneta is shocking and unexpected to say the least.”
Luca Solca, senior luxury analyst at Bernstein, also called the news “unexpected” and said it was “bad news for Kering”.
“Daniel was able to reinvent the intrecciato for Bottega Veneta and quickly bring it back to consumer relevance,” Mr. Solca said.
Lisa Marie Fernandez, the designer, tweeted, “Oh wow … There will be no more brands that women can actually buy and wear.”
While the rumors may not have preceded Mr. Lee’s departure, it wasn’t long after the news broke for new whispers to begin, including that Mr. Lee’s exit may have been – being linked to the return of designer Phoebe Philo, for whom Mr. Lee had worked when she was Celine’s Creative Director. Or that he might have found a funder for his own brand – although he never expressed a desire to start a namesake line.
Whether this is true or not, the abrupt nature of the parting, as well as the fact that no information has been shared about what the designer or their former brand plans to do next, is sure to give rise to the following again. speculation on creation versus corporate power. Not to mention the frenzied fashion game launch of designer musical chairs, which appeared to have briefly (thankfully) slowed down during the pandemic.
Neither Mr. Lee nor anyone at Kering was available for comment.