Daniel Lee: A minimalist designer in a maximalist world

The loudest noise often gets the most attention. But, Daniel Lee’s work does not need to shout to be heard. A whisper from him is just as profound. Parent company Kering, appointed the 32-year-old British designer as Creative Director of Bottega Veneta in 2018. The keys to the Bottega kingdom were given with a carte blanche and Lee uses it masterfully. It’s only been eight months since he presented his first collection for the iconic Italian house, and he’s already been nominated at the 2019 Fashion Awards — three individually and one for Bottega Veneta. 

From Balenciaga to Gucci, the list goes on to show that logomania is alive and well. That is why Daniel Lee’s Bottega Veneta is a fresh breath of air. He offers the antithesis to maximalism. It’s minimalism with an edge. Others have described Lee’s work as “discreet without being dull” and “refined but not uptight”. What they’re really trying to say is that: it’s just right. 

In Lee’s own words, Bottega Veneta is “a heightened aspirational reality”. Coming from a background of working at Maison Margiela, Balenciaga, Donna Karan and notably creating alongside Phoebe Philo at Celine, as Director of Ready-To-Wear, the diversity of his portfolio enables him to achieve his vision. His creations at Bottega reveal how thoroughly he understands modern luxury. 

Daniel Lee, on the other hand, is a far cry from opulence. The word “grounded” comes to mind. He’s a millennial without social media. Those that cannot fathom may scream in horror at this disconnect. Preferring real world interactions, his social circle is outside of the fashion world. Lee is a mysterious figure but his work speaks a wealth of literature on his behalf. This sense of authenticity is transferred to Bottega Veneta. A Bottega Veneta show is purely sartorial work. No insta-bait frills or supermodel-clad catwalks. And, Lee specifically said that the success of Bottega lies within the cohesiveness of his team. This humbling approach highlights the greater truth of a fashion collection and brand — it’s a team effort — and those behind-the-scenes work just as hard and should be acknowledged, recognised and celebrated. 

Since 1966, from its origins in Vicenza, the Veneto region of Italy, Bottega Veneta prides itself with exquisite Italian craftsmanship. Although known for their leather goods, Lee has set his eyes to explore an untapped portion of the brand: ready-to-wear, shoes and jewelry. This was the focal point of his pre-collection and Fall 2019 show. 

For the first time, Daniel Lee designed menswear. He gave the Bottega man sophisticated “clothes to live in” that excelled in craftsmanship and quality. A Bottega piece isn’t a fad. It is the definition of timelessness. A piece could spend decades in a wardrobe without feeling dated and one would not be able to guess its year of origin. Pieces are meant to be part of an iconic wardrobe and made to last a lifetime. 

With see-through mesh sweaters, softly quilted derby leather shoes and cut-out sweaters, Lee introduces a subdued sensualness to Bottega’s menswear. Models came down in a variety of hues — neutrals and pops of bold blue and orange alike. The simple lines and construction of pieces were not mundane but a must-have staple. Lee’s pieces can travel throughout the seasons, going from day to night, from office to a rave. Longevity is embedded in its seams. Bottega Veneta’s intricate leather weaving technique intrecciato were seen on slides. Lee broadened up Bottega’s audience, appealing to a younger clientele and making luxury more wearable on a daily basis. While also, striking the right balance between modernity and tradition. And of course, the clothes are beautiful. So, keep a tab on Bottega Veneta.