Daniel Lee's Bottega Veneta is The Answer to Phoebe Philo's Departure From Celine
Phoebe Philo’s Celine is heralded as one of the most significant contributions to contemporary womenswear—the controversial removal of the brand's accent has proven far less impactful than the concern amidst an abandoned following. The outrage came as no surprise as Hedi Slimane’s debut collection at Celine was, well, Hedi Slimane; his creative stamp unforgettable in its virile chasm. Slimane’s unapologetic antithesis to Philo’s work marked a distinct new chapter not just for Celine, but for womenswear at large. Highly regarded as a pioneer in her own right, Phoebe Philo’s impact was seismic in its democracy; redefining the wardrobes of millions, ultimately guiding the aesthetic ethos for a legion of women.
After months of volatility following Phoebe Philo’s departure, it seems that her former director of ready-to-wear, Daniel Lee, may be the answer to her absence. From 2012 until Philo’s departure, the 32 year-old, Central Saint Martins graduate worked closely alongside the womenswear mogul at Celine. Aside from her own distinct creative prowess, it was also Lee’s attention to detail that aided in the distinctly familiar silhouettes that brought together women of all ages.
In July of this year, Kering Group announced Lee’s appointment to creative director at Bottega Veneta. While his position may have been allotted in a scramble to secure the Bottega Veneta's relevance in the millennial market and with the intent to fill the innovative gaps of Tomas Maier, his predecessor, perhaps what is more persuasive is Lee's position: the beacon for disenfranchised Philophiles. In essence, it would seem to be that the humor surrounding the designer’s name being unknown is misplaced—Daniel Lee is definitely a name we should know. Despite polarity and unrest adrift, Daniel Lee’s Bottega Veneta is a reminder of the natural ebb and flow of an industry often too fast for its own good.
Lee’s debut collection can be best described as sophisticated sensuality, a creative motif synonymous with Philo. Her influence is almost immediately recognizable in Lee’s lineup, pairing woolen wide-legged trousers with simple sweaters and loosely fitted, mandarin-collared blouses; the bright pops of color against seductive neutrals; capacious leather tote bags; minimalist hardware; a smart camel overcoat. The compelling language of Philo is evident throughout the pre-fall collection in both the women's and menswear.
While his collection certainly bore a compelling resemblance to the cornerstones of Phoebe Philo’s Celine, Daniel Lee is not to be mistaken for simple, amusing imitation. The young English designer’s debut alluded to sensual Italian design with plentiful scoop necks and supple woven leathers—emblimatic of the Bottega Veneta brand. The subtle incorporation of the Intrecciato, Bottega Veneta’s signature calling card—unassuming with unusual placement—as well as the XL reimagination of the classic basket weave, is captivatingly paradoxical in its subtle grandiosity. With logomania having returned to fuel the growing luxury market, it would seem favorable for Lee to tactfully reinsert the house back into relevancy, seasoning sustainable growth for Bottega Veneta. In which case, it will certainly define him separate from the Philophile world.
At a time of unprecedented turmoil, scandal, upheaval, and change in the fashion industry as well as the political sphere that it often encompasses, perhaps it might be shortsighted to declare clemency in the world of Celine. After all, we won’t truly know the answer to any of these questions until February when Hedi Slimane’s Celine hits stores. But, until then, it might be worth wondering if Daniel Lee may just be exactly what this industry needs.