Daniel Lee combines nostalgic memories with a subversive desire of freedom – Leave no trace – where has Bottega Veneta gone after Salon 01 presentation event? Apology for a leadership
A short film by Tyron Lebone and the project Salon 01 London, the event shied away from digital: «Fashion was moving toward becoming reliant on digital presentations – which is not something that resonated with me or the brands», the office reports creative director Daniel Lee’s words. «We are lacking the intimacy that comes with contact with people. Our answer was to do some intimate viewings of the collection». The practice of combining the real and the digital world was gaining ground as brands needed to fuse tactile expressions with virtual experience until January 5th, when Bottega Veneta deleted its Twitter and Instagram accounts and hid all posts from its Facebook page. No corporate release – leaving the not so many influencers’ supporters within the industry wondering whether staying offline is an opportunity to increase the perception of exclusivity. Surely the move helped the brand stand out in today’ digital world. The British designer has never had a personal Instagram account, and on several occasions, he has made it clear that social media are not his focus. «Everyone seeing the same things is not healthy or productive. It doesn’t breed individuality», said Lee. «Digital presentations. They felt empty and took so much effort in such emotionally turbulent times, yet in the end the concepts lacked depth».
The designer, who studied knitwear at Central Saint Martins wants to maintain the codes of the house – the question stands about these codes: were they conceived by the former director Tomas Maier or do we need to search deeper into the past? During his seventeen years of creative vision at Bottega Veneta since 2001, Maier had developed the core values of the House: fine-quality materials, contemporary functionality, craftsmanship, and timeless design. Tomas Maier has long been an admirer of minimalism, always reaching the essence of things. He balanced Bottega Veneta’s creative ideals while including surrealism and mystery, which evolved and deepened over time. A lifelong art and architecture enthusiast, Maier oversaw the design of the product, as well as the architecture of the brand’s image. Growing up in his father’s architect office, he has been inspired by the process – planning, siting and scouting for materials which architecture demands- transforming it into contemporary and rational ideas at Bottega Veneta. His narrative led him to collaborate with many photographers, such as Pictures Generation’s American artist Robert Longo, whose drawing technique is pervaded with sculptural influence. His graphic quality was incorporated in Maier’s Bottega Veneta Fall/Winter 2011 based on the strength and the individuality of the image, the association of complex ideas and powerful imagery.
Longo’s early Eighties Men in the cities series inspired Maier to display contrasts of structure and fluidity, stillness and movement, masculine and feminine, capturing that individuality that reflected the same spirit Maier strove for during his artistic direction at Bottega Veneta. Since his debut campaign as creative director shot by Tyron Lebone in 2019, Daniel Lee’s imagery emerged, evolving what had been and contributing to a new perspective. Lee’s idea was to establish an overall athletic and sensual vision of both women and men through sophisticated cuts, refined materials and juxtaposition of natural and technical fibers, enlarging the items’ volume, bringing an injection of modernity. He focused his artistic direction on drawing upon the codes of the House: his latest collections embodied a magnifying glass on Bottega’s pillars, expanding upon the definition of what its cornerstones can be. Lee showcased his artistic vision on techniques and motifs, intertwining his interpretation of the house’s leather making capabilities and the Intrecciato weave, turning it into something hyperbolic. Lee focused on classic, strict silhouettes and conceptual designs, constantly trying to reinvent the brand’s codes without losing his essence. His artistic direction aims at maintaining the Italian spirit and way of life but from a modern perspective, showing in the collections his support to the heritage and history of the house along with his new perspective.
Salon 01 combined Daniel lee’s vision of the label, the essentials and a simplicity founded on form and function with that intimacy permeating the collection dedicated to one’s personal connection to clothing: «I use the things I put on my body as a form of protection – clothes give me courage», intoned the soundtrack of the show, which is a spoken-word record by the Swedish singer Neneh Cherry: «Daniel wanted me to speak rather than sing, to keep it close as a reflection of the journey we’ve been on this year», Cherry said on a corporate disclosing. The collection was aimed at embodying domestic feelings through ready to wear pieces, mirroring the dichotomy of the times: knitwear replaces leather as a symbol of an upcoming post-pandemic dimension based on the search for well-being. Monochromatic looks, knitted dresses, wide-leg pants, and halter tops of the Seventies paired with Sixties A-line dresses alongside the cuts of Nineties style suits reflected Lee’s vision of today’s landscape, which embraces various aesthetics. Bright colors were employed. The signature shade of green, which served as a backdrop for the show to maximize the control of minimalism. Silhouettes appeared against well-cut tailoring and rich textures. These elements were used to offer comfort and an understanding of clothing conceived as a second skin. «You can feel done up and elegant at the same time as feeling comfortable. That’s my mission for Bottega» are Lee’s words. The bare elegance matched the focus on showcasing silhouettes highly tactile in fabrication: knitted tailoring close enough to fit the body giving way to comfort and movement. The fabrics employed, from bouclé to crochet, are reminiscences of home furnishings, which strengthened the bond among the Sixties inspired silhouettes and domesticity, while evoking nostalgia. Lee imparted smoothness by combining the old with the new, focusing on control and precision on every item of the collection.
His subversive realism has become a defining principle of the House: Salon 01 collection was designed to explore Lee’s idiosyncratic perspective on craftsmanship. This sense of continuity is given by the possibility to mix pieces from old and upcoming shows, the bags are meant to be paired and matched season after season. Lee’s latest works continued the fusion of unexpected pairings, balancing ease and formality as explored in the Wardrobe 01 collection, which displayed movement and sensuality through fabrications conceived as extensions of the body. The collection is defined by its own tactility mirrored in thick ribbed knits, plush silks, lacy crochet, nubby car-seat beading, and raw linen. All of it rendered in easy tank dresses, chunky cabled cardigans, long-waisted shirt-dresses, generous trousers and shirts with padded seams, along with the stretch-knit skirt suited in Bottega green with its buttoned-to the neck cropped jacket that opened the show. The shift towards softness affected the accessories which highlighted the ensembles as they hit the runway: the fabric knits of the clothes got transferred onto clutches in pastel shades; the collection included tote bag versions in the house’s classic Intrecciato, while the Triangle Bag appeared in a crochet-knot finish in pastels of purple, pink, neon yellow and blue. Shoes included square toe, strappy variety, crafty and woven sandals alongside open-toe mules combined with contrasting metal hardware and jewelry.
Along with the collection’s debut the artistic director of the Italian house released three books and a record of Neneh Cherry’s performance; together these elements aimed at defining the conceptual idea behind Bottega Veneta’s next spring season. Book 01: like musician PJ Harvey, are cultural references taken as icons that inspired Lee’s latest designs. Book 02: Process in collaboration with Rosemarie Trockel, whose works have never been incorporated into fashion before. Best known for her stripe-filled knitted pictures that challenge traditional notions of femininity, Rosemarie Trockel raises questions of politics, domesticity, and fantasy; Lee’s latest collection featuring his own experiments with knitted materials showed similar aims. The book, curated by the German artist, displayed a series of photographs taken by Trockel which captured the evolution of the collection, a meditation on the relationship with clothing interspersed with text-filled pages of anonymous conversation about the connection between art and fashion: «Daniel Lee never wastes his breath on chatter. During our exchange, there was an almost daily flow of objects coming from Milan, both material experiments and finished garments, and in return, my photographic impressions and surreal juxtapositions virtually communicated to Daniel and his team». The duo worked closely for many months. After each of her shoots, Trockel returned the pieces along with the images she captured; the final selection was made by Lee before assembling the book. The third and final Book 03: Presentation contained a series of shots by Tyrone Lebon of live Bottega presentation at Sadler’s Wells Theater from early October when a small group of guests was on stage immersed in light and sound looking at Daniel Lee’s collection through socially distanced chairs, while models moved around them. This concept has been envisioned by the artistic director, who wanted to recreate the cities around the pre-pandemic world: «It was like going back and thinking about how fashion shows began: salon shows» he explained. The fourth item was a neon green record of Neneh Cherry’s spoken word performance at the show. Through Salon 01, Daniel Lee tried to foster a sense of closeness with the audience revealing the creative and design processes that led to the show, the techniques which went into creating, with each look offering the tactile allure the designer intended to achieve.IMAGE GALLERY
Bottega Veneta Spring Summer 2021 collection Salon 01 evokes comfort and freedom, executed with precision and control. With a focus on incredible knitted pieces, tailoring and handcraft, the nostalgic garments reference 60s silhouettes with an ease. Fabrics are generous, creating the ultimate cozy desire to be worn. Part of the Spring 21 project reveal also includes a series of three books and a record. Book one: Universe of Bottega Veneta, delves into the making of the collection, Book Two: Process is a collaboration with German artist Rosemarie Trockel, and Book Three: Presentation, shot by Tyron Lebon features collection and backstage imagery from the Salon 01 London presentation.