Botega Veneta, the Italian luxury brand known for its signature intrecciato weave, announced that it was parting ways with its creative director, Daniel Lee, in an announcement that stunned the fashion world. The announcement came less than a month after Bottega Veneta held a much-anticipated show in Detroit before an audience that included Mary J. Blige, Lil’ Kim, and Kehlani, among others.
After starting at Bottega as a relative unknown, Mr. Lee had only been with the company for a little more than three years, during which time he was praised for revitalising the once conservative house and giving it a coolly modern look. As a result, it was, unsurprisingly, quite hot.
He heard the news merely hours before the Council of Fashion Designers of America awards, where he had been nominated in two categories: international women’s wear designer of the year and international men’s wear designer of the year, and just two weeks before the Fashion Awards in London, where he had been nominated for designer of the year.
The CEO of Kering, the luxury conglomerate that owns Bottega Veneta, François-Henri Pinault, expressed his gratitude to Mr. Lee for “the unique chapter” he penned in the brand’s history in a statement.
As a result of his turnaround, Mr. Lee received four awards at the British Fashion Awards in 2019, including designer of the year and brand of the year, which was more than any other designer had previously taken home in a single night in the event’s history, including Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney, among others. His pouch bag, which he presented not long after joining Bottega, was an instant sensation, as were his square-toe woven shoes, which were also a hit.
Kering, which owns brands like as Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, and Balenciaga, among others, announced sales of 363.4 million euros (about $417.73 million) in the third quarter of this year, representing a 9.3 percent increase over the same period in 2020.
Despite the fact that Mr. Lee took the illogical move of deleting Bottega Veneta’s social media accounts at the beginning of 2021, the brand has continued to thrive. That decision followed his previous decision, made during the epidemic, to forego participation in the larger fashion week schedule, preferring instead to rename his dual-gender shows Salon 1 and Salon 2 (Detroit was designated Salon 3) and host them wherever and whenever he saw appropriate.
While it is possible that Mr. Lee’s departure was preceded by rumours, it did not take long after the news broke for new rumours to emerge, including the possibility that Mr. Lee’s departure was related to the return of designer Phoebe Philo, with whom Mr. Lee had previously worked when she was creative director of Celine. For all we knew, he may have secured a backer for his own brand, despite the fact that he had never indicated an interest in starting one..
Even if it is true, the sudden nature of the split, as well as the fact that no information has been revealed about what the designer or his former company wants to do next, is certain to rekindle debates over the balance of creative and corporate power in the fashion industry. That’s not to mention re-ignite the frantic fashion game of designer musical chairs, which seemed to have been put on hold for a short period of time (happily) during the outbreak.