Bottega Veneta creative director Daniel Lee previewed his new direction for the Italian brand last year with a warmly received men's Pre-Fall lookbook. This was followed up by an understated Spring campaign shot by Tyrone Lebon.
Today, the Italian label unveiled its FW19 collection at Milan Fashion Week, delivering a taste of what the industry – and many customers – have been seeking: fashion liberated from a culture of social media virality and algorithmic design prompts.
Indeed, the show notes confirmed that the aim of this season was a fairly simple one, "To evoke emotion - pleasure and joy, desire and beauty."
For menswear, desire and beauty came in the form of leather pants (which arrived in quilted and weaved variations), large cloak-like coats with distinct triangular detailing, sheer polo necks, and knitwear with cut-outs from the chest and hips. This freedom to expose the skin and fabrics underneath, married with super long sleeves and futuristic boots, sealed the new Bottega silhouette as one that signals a feeling of protection and, paradoxically, unrepentant vulnerability.
For womenswear, Lee leaned into the house's signature intrecciato – a hand-weaving leather technique usually reserved for handbags. This included belted coats in a mix of natural and chemically-treated hues. One particular paneled leather two-piece stole the show with its armor-like proportions and protective, yet sensual, allure.
Pleasure and joy. Check.
Lee, the former director of ready-to-wear at Phoebe Philo's Céline, is folding Bottega Veneta into the lexicon of modern luxury, and doing so without making too much noise about it. For menswear, 2019 has become a tricky balancing act of tailoring, futuristic design, and streetwear, which was all served in Lee's collection today. The Robocop-style footwear was merely an added bonus.
Considering Lee's background, and the fact that Bottega Veneta is owned by Kering, the label is shaping up to be the "new old Céline" now that Hedi Slimane has taken said label into his own, more singular direction.
The FW19 show was presented under a giant greenhouse on a radiant Milano morning. The transparency felt symbolic, laying everything bare for the audience to see with no gimmicks or conspicuous branding. Here was classic Italian craftsmanship designed for a customer whose concept of luxury doesn't need to be spelled out for everyone to see.