Under a tented glass structure at the foot of one of Milan’s most famous city gates, Arco della Pace, Lee’s co-ed Autumn/Winter collection revealed a quiet strength. Taken on last summer, Lee replaces veteran German designer Tomas Maier who served as the Milanese fashion house’s creative directors for 17 years.
Founded in 1966 and now owned by French conglomerate Kering, the Venetian fashion house has its eye on becoming a vital player in women’s ready-to-wear fashion. And it’s this challenge that the 32-year-old Briton has embraced following stints at Margiela, Balenciaga, Donna Karan and most recently at Celine, where he spent five years directing ready-to-wear at the French fashion house.
It is not by chance that this young designer has taken up the reins at this venerated fashion house which is famous for its timeless elegance and iconic woven “intreccio” leather but which has been looking for a fresh approach. And industry observers are predicting a bright future for him, even if Bottega Veneta is one of the rare Kering brands which has gone through a bumpy patch.
Behind his unassuming appearance, the young English designer harbours grand ambitions: “I want Bottega Veneta to become the best fashion brand in the world,” he said backstage after the show. On the runway, his creative determination found expression in the use of luxury fabrics worked with both energy and precision.
And Bottega Veneta’s trademark weave was played up, finding new expression as its boxy motif was translated onto coats, bags, dresses and skirts. Under a blazing cloudless sky, an all-leather ensemble evoked the look of body armour, with its heavily-embossed design fusing traditional technique with a futuristic vision, while other leather pieces had echoes of chain mail.
Other pieces cut a more feminine silhouette, with knee-length dresses with mesh up to the throat, or bright quilted skirts bearing a touch of sensuality. Although leather and monochrome dominated on the runway, the collection was punctuated by notes of cream, orange, blue, and often illuminated by flashes of brilliant decorative motifs.
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