Daniel Lee judges Wallpaper* Design Awards 2020
British designer Daniel Lee has only been at the creative helm of Bottega Veneta for a year and a half, but his seductive, off-kilter and glamorous vision has been transformative
British designer Daniel Lee has only been at the creative helm of Bottega Veneta for a year and a half, but his seductive, off-kilter and glamorous vision has been transformative. The 54-year old Italian label has been catapulted from conservative to cult, heritage to red hot, luring legions of on-the-button fashion fans attracted to Lee’s luxurious yet taste-pushing aesthetic. The Bradford-born designer, now 33, earned his sartorial stripes as director of ready-to-wear at Celine under Phoebe Philo – the womenswear pioneer beloved by intellectual, elegant and artistic women. Having also worked at Maison Margiela and Balenciaga, softly-spoken Lee was an under-the-radar talent before being cherry-picked by Kering to head up the Vincenza-founded house, after Tomas Maier’s 17-year creative tenure.
Materiality lies at the heart of Lee’s take on Bottega Veneta’s leathermaking heritage, and one of his first moves was to reinterpret the brand’s signature Intrecciato weave in emphatic proportions across clothes and accessories. Bourgeois silhouettes, rebellious Motocross shapes and seductive eveningwear all featured in Lee’s A/W 2019 runway debut, which included butter-soft clutch bags evoking puffy clouds, chunky bovver boots, chain link leather skirts, and shirt dresses twinkling with shards of mosaic. It’s no surprise the imaginative offering has been awarded Best Women’s Fashion Collection in the 2020 Wallpaper* Design Awards. A/W 2019’s accompanying menswear focused on XL proportions and biker silhouettes, featuring chocolate leather parkas, ribbed knitwear with spaghetti sleeves, slim knee-padded trousers and square-shouldered tailoring.
In recent months, Lee’s vision for Bottega Veneta has received a surge of industry recognition. The designer won four gongs at December 2019’s Fashion Awards: for British Designer of the Year, Womenswear; Brand of the Year; Accessories Designer of the Year; and Brand of the Year. S/S 2020 promises more boundary-pushing pizzazz: think enormous cross body bags in bold calfskins, chunky chain jewellery, maxi weave loafers, leather boxing shorts and sexy asymmetric dresses. Dramatic, futuristic and unfaltering luxurious silhouettes for dressing in a new decade.
Serendipitously, Lee voted for Sabine Marcelis as Designer of the Year for her fabrication focus. ‘I love her purist approach to material,’ he says. ‘Her Candy Cubes look almost edible. The use of colour connects a lot to our work. Solid and important, taking up space.’ Marcelis’ use of mirror also resonates. ‘Reflections are something we often play around with in image, so I’m also personally drawn to her off round Seeing Glass collection,’ Lee adds. ‘Unfortunately I don’t own any of her work, but hopefully one day.’
Lee is also fascinated by the ‘tension between strangeness and desirability’ apparent in Hæckels’ products, like the Margate-based wellness brand’s Bladderwrack + Buckthorn Body Cleanser. He nominated the label for Best Grooming Product based on its eco-friendly packaging. ‘Sustainability is important to all aspects of our lives today,’ Lee adds of Hæckels’ environmentally aware output. ‘It should be the underlying factor in all our consumer choices.’ §