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Who is Daniel Lee and why is he fashion's latest obsession?

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Billie Bhatia
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Daniel Lee, the new creative director of Bottega Veneta, is brewing up a fashion storm amongst industry insiders…

When Hedi Slimane debuted his new direction (for now accent-free Celine), there was a resounding crunch of collective heartbreak from the fashion industry.The brand so beloved by fashion’s most stylish women was no more. There was no more fluid tailoring, no more ground-breaking shoes that so brilliantly combined style and comfort. (White leather high top skates: I will never not love you). No more body-boosting, mind-altering dresses, no more ‘it’ bags. In short, no more Phoebe Philo making women feel chic. (Hold it together, Philophiles).

The mourning was real, Instagram accounts documenting Phoebe’s most epic works sprung up (thank you, @oldceline), hashtags were founded and the search for the next fashion obsession was on. 

Well, we have found it. Enter: Daniel Lee, the new creative director of Italian brand Bottega Veneta. 

A little history first. Bottega Veneta is a brand that had accessories at its core, in particular a woven leather bag. Bottega’s legacy is in its quality, its discretion and its ability to be recognisable without being shouty. You would have seen its trademark intrecciato design, clocked it (probably admired it) with not an iota of gaudy branding in sight.

Daniel Lee, the new creative director of Bottega Veneta 

Lee’s new look for the brand has all the ingredients of classic Philo ethos: cool clothes that women want to wear. This is no coincidence, 32-year-old British-born Lee worked under Philo at Celine as director of ready-to-wear and spent seven years at the house. Prior to this, Lee worked in some of fashion’s most innovative houses namely Maison Margiela and Balenciaga. But it’s his work at the Italian brand that has got the fashion industry abuzz with hope. This isn’t Old Celine, this is New Bottega Veneta. 

Bottega Veneta Pre-Fall 2018 

Earlier this year Lee showcased his inaugural pre-fall collection consisting of deep scooped necklines that were sensual but sophisticated, soft-as-butter black knee length shorts, neat anoraks paired with quilted A-line leather skirts and reinterpretations of the classic Bottega woven bag - supersizing the infamous intrecciato technique (so easily identifiable it has the markings of a future ‘it’ bag). Inevitably the collection was reminiscent of Philo’s finest works, but there lay an element of Italian refinement in Lee’s new vision.

This week the designer debuted his first campaign for the house, shot by photographer, Tyrone Lebone - coincidentally the only photographer other than Jurgen Teller to shoot a Celine campaign under Phoebe Philo. The images were sun-soaked in classic Lebone style, smart and made every aspect of the clothes and accessories hugely desirable. Even I, the woman who repels anything not a trainer, considered the lure of Lee’s perfect heeled leather shoes. 

Bottega Veneta spring / summer 2019 campaign photographed by Tyrone Lebone 

Bottega Veneta spring / summer 2019 campaign photographed by Tyrone Lebone 

It’s a matter of weeks before Lee showcases his first runway collection at Milan Fashion Week, and whilst we have been all consumed with the high profile moves in the industry: Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton, Kim Jones at Dior - perhaps it’s time to refocus on the quieter, more discreet name that is promising us clothes we can’t wait to wear.

Rejoice, Philophiles, your wardrobes need not mourn any longer (although your bank balance might). 

Images: Courtesy of Bottega Veneta 

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