Daniel Lee’s Bottega Veneta is a lesson in creating a look without saying you’re creating a look.
It was fun to say Bottega is doing this and that. As in being hidden with the logos and not having ads and not paying influencers etc etc.. for a while. Bottega is known for being a stealthy brand that us seen and not heard, however under daniel lee, it was both for the full tenure in a head line or celebrity post constantly.
Daniel lee created collection after collection built with an aesthetic and an expressionist brush, as he sees it.
After the pandemic, (if there is even such a thing) Daniel Lee gave us the biggest post-pandemic vibes with FALL 2021 RTW. this latest collection. Creating a Bottega in his own image. A loud and experimental decision that paid in visibility.
Looking closely at the tapestry he is building he is seen to create a design language of expressionism in his designs. Giving us something new, with Bottega we are under the presupposition it has the foundation of minimalism, pushing the feeling of luxury and craftsmanship. What we see with Daniel Lee’s design is a progression I’m seeing with his ready to wear collections as one in all a continuity of storytelling that is telling a story that doesn’t live under the presupposition when we see Bottega Veneta. First I thought it was just the bags. And him creating an ‘IT-BAG’ then I was like… that’s weird… that’s suspicious. Bottega bags aren’t supposed to be loud or ostentatious, in two minds, seeing him pushing the intrecciato to the extreme at the same time, is this Bottega.
Now let us think… the point of the ‘IT-BAG’ is for it to let you know it exists. Bottega prides itself on not having a logo using its masterful leather work do the talking – Italian excellence as per. Okay Daniel Lee Bags are doing that, it’s very clear, yet it’s an ‘IT BAG’ – (what a cool revelation) – it almost sounds oxymoronic to say a Bottega bag is an IT BAG when the definition endears itself to everyone knowing it exists. Then you look at the Bottega GREEN the most loud and clear sign of Bottega and we see the “New Bottega” ads, all these would not mean all that much if it wasn’t the phrase, ‘pride itself on fitting seamlessly into the owner’s wardrobe’ and the Bottega bags TODAY are loud statement items that are now IT BAGS which also translate to the 2001 definition of letting everyone knows it exists.
The techniques are such today you can do so much with the intrecciato technique that it can be the most bold statement in fashion today winning awards, and every write up calling it an IT BAG, the design distinction doesn’t just stay there it also is prevalent in the ready-to-wear. Being a product of its times translating into today’s aesthetic of design which gets little to no awareness. It isn’t even a product of Phoebe Philo school of design. It’s a whole new schema using Italian futurism and likening itself to the Neo Futurism of today sensual lines and appealing details. An Art-Deco design aesthetic that is grandiose lets you know it’s here from a company that people are constantly writing about it’s minimalism.
The next thing everyone with sense will say is minimal isn’t simple designs they’re stripped down. Well, I’m counting multiple design elements that speak to New Bottega’s eccentricity, aesthetic and expressionism. The colours and silhouettes are inventive, renovating the shapes we can see today and adding a colourful lens to it.
Bottega Veneta today expresses a culture of feeling possible futurism (looking directly at the colours) and the angular nature of the constructive elements of these garments. True Italian Vetement – boldly executed under the guise of minimalism… texture – colour – fit – cut all considerations in cultivating this “New Bottega” – seriously, people keep speaking about minimalism and post-pandemic woes and Daniel Lee for the past several years has been delivering a direct execution of expressionist art-deco of his making and futurism with an Italian artisan flare and intuitive style lines.
I can picture Daniel Lee staring at Umberto Boccioni – ‘FUTURISTIC MAN’ – FormsUniche Della Continuità Nello Spazio (Unique forms of continuity in space). The dynamism of a car but make it fashion, make it Neo-Futurist make it Bottega. I see the aerodynamic we will see in space-age mid-century architecture, function isn’t without beauty.
The relevance of the 1930’s Aero DYNAMIC vehicles I can speak to the puddle boot directly taking reference from works like streamline KJ Henderson motorcycle. You can pull a car from that era and see the gratifying expression of sensual lines in the puddle boot giving it a distinctive not like the other designs today. That GT (Grand Tourer) vibe.
I am talking about the bags and the ready-to-wear in the same breath. Daniel lee’s design language indicates and expresses the need for futurism ‘In the Hardest of Times, it is important to still dream’ Daniel Lee said that, fathoming what he meant in terms of expression and futurism puts the aptest lens on the ‘so-called’ minimalist brands’ Bottega Veneta’s DNA.
This thorough direction gave me time to ruminate on why possibly Daniel Lee would execute this. Chewing on these ideas and design sentiment is one thing. The latitude to execute on design principles like these while the rules of the house stipulate a more stealthier approach, all that is left is conjecture at this point. Daniel lee’s tenure is over and his work is in a capsule, the reason for the mutual parting is in the air. The question I am readily asking is, with a stealth wealth, conspicuous consumption house like bottega why are the designs so loud, to me mixed messages were sent when being the most talked-about creative house – in Italy and being a leader in Kering’s top 3 Gucci Balenciaga and Bottega – why delete your social media. And digital footprint. Regardless of all that Bottega is still popular amongst Americas Hip-Hop Millionaires, and Nouveau Riche. There’s a complicated relationship with the consumer Bottega needs to control or go with. Changing with the times or sticking to your guns.
I first encountered Kiko after his SS18 collection but in 2019 I wasn’t sure if I was late or early to the party but I was sure he was doing the right thing. This relative unknown then became the dark horse in the race to evolve menswear.
Kiko and his ASICS collab have had him in the sights of many men in fashion wanting more from him and wanting well of him, he seems to provoke in men what Chanel was said to have provoked in women back in her day. We see Kiko garner the attention of men all over wanting the uniform of ‘a man’, this really interests me as I have been working on my menswear thesis for quite some time Kiko seems to design in alignment to some of my brief. And as a relatively new and fairly obscure designer it seems he has a formula to bring more men into fashion.
This is why he is part of the Spring of the Rookie, I pick my rookies due to years in the game, Kiko Debut in 2017 and if you aren’t looking for him you may not find him but much like Sam Ross I feel his vigour and his energy is oxygen to the flame of the new Menswear ethos. Reason being you see Kiko here, I enjoy being on the right side of history and this man is my second gamble he may become a pillar of the community or a slab that lay the foundation this is my lot to say the former. I see him as someone that can grow into potentially one of the top designers of our generation given time and guidance
Kiko began his journey in Belgium of all places moving to the U.K. as a teen and going to Central Saint Martins. Already his story is quite interesting as an immigrant coming to London to study fashion is nary a thing you hear of, the creative arts is something that’s feared by immigrant families because its nature is due to a gamble not everyone is here to make it. My guess is Kiko bet on himself enough to get the funds to educate himself in fashion, as hard as it may be he done it as a man. I rarely hear stories of people coming to the U.K. to make it in Creative industries let alone business these stories are usually reserved for America. I believe this start is what draws certain men to Kiko that understanding of someone who decided to go for his dream and achieve it in a land he didn’t know. Whether he will stay here due to the U.K. laws on art and entrepreneurship, that’s a conversation for a different day. Kiko is here and men love him right now.
As a designer Kiko Kostadinov focuses highly on tailoring using his eye for utility his garments are very structured and he seems to challenge himself pushing the way he references and the kind of garments he constructs. The type of shapes and patterns he uses as details remind me of 70’s Abstract Modernism work, found in his beloved Belgium maybe Thomas Kapsalis morso Karel Maes if I do say so myself the shapes and colours certainly do seem inspired in that direction and that to me has me tip my hat of to him as someone drawing from his home and creating work that is representative of all things that are him.
Functionally his clothes seem to focus heavily on masculine aesthetic shows me so much about himself, his ethos certainly shows itself through his clothes and it is fair to say he enjoys his work. He seems to consider so much from his references in art to the designers and film. He doesn’t romanticise men but sees them how they are and enjoys being one, if that is an honest turn of phrase. So when we say he’s utilitarian it’s to mean he makes what is of use and when we say abstract modernist it’s to say he creates a design language recognisable to him without compromising the garment the wearer or himself.
I have to note he covers himself in controversy being so soon out as he is prone to profane outbursts calling out designers like Virgil Abloh for instance, turning his nose up at designers who may not be like him, you would think as an artist he would be more considerate of others feelings, yet he’s not. He leaves room for him to be memed as a tyrant that feels more prestige because of his pedigree having been to CSM and worked for certain labels. As an artist that talks about other artists as well I refrain from sending harsh or profane language someone’s way and if I critique its to be constructive because I want there to be a better intention for great work. I do see he is a whole person as an artist you buy into him and if you are cool with him you can be cool with his clothes. Maybe he comes from a space of love for the craft but I don’t see it as a valuable use of time talking about other designers this way as you are trying to come out of relative obscurity, not that I think it hurt or helps but that’s how I see it.
He shares a space with no one and may be here to define a new way or new lane for designers as a whole and create a language for men at mass, we are looking forward to something new as he has laid a foundation with these firsts collections, his work seems to have some sort of factory setting so it would be fun to see something different pushing his boundaries but there is something to be said for someone who is consistently showing greatness within the bounds they laid for themselves.
I appreciate the sight of a great graphic and printing process. I was raised off the vinyl and screen printing process, my adoration has only grown in European fashion industry. As printing and the appropriation of cultural pattern techniques of Dries
to the rediscovery of a printing process by Hermes.
It’s safe to say patterns and prints are still very much alive, we can talk of Prada to off white having graphics as a staple. It is important to the aesthetic of high fashion and since the involvement of more culturally American ideals of graphic tees, they penetrate the zeitgeist and sweep through most fashion houses – Balenciaga, Isabel Marant, Alexander McQueen – all different houses all use a similar print type.
It has to be said though, surely as much as the houses do this, we can say it is just as important to the consumer it’s done right and is happy with the print and final product, this low quality high yield export of fashion houses is a gold mine.
The typeface print came into vogue in the earlier 2000’s, as heritage houses needed market relevance for youth and the best way to do that was to have a strong and “timeless” typeface. This trend went through an uptick in the 2010’s and most new fashion startups came in with graphic tees with the name plastered across the chest, there was a further evolution in the manipulation of the type to make a more unique expression and further still with a logo/type ‘lockup‘ (where you will pair the type and logo together in a unique fashion).
As we have all instances now all being used up-to-date, I feel there’s a need-to-know how to use and how to create more dynamic prints using true art philosophy principles. In Animation we learned there are 12 principles to animation and until we are solid in the standard replication of life, some of us would have naturally expressive animation principles for me it was Squash & stretch, and appeal and exaggeration etc.
In graphics I see people using certain principles on trend consistently and there’s been no elevation. Particularly in fashion I’m incredibly fond of how people use art philosophies to their advantage and use them to manipulate their clothes cut aesthetic etc. When it comes to print patterns and sigils I’m noticing a restlessness and disgruntled vitriol towards the use of graphics and prints in fashion. It’s a big trend of people to not buy into a brands merchandise if it has graphics. There’s also a trend of people who love graphics to have them everywhere as if the garment is nascar advertising. As far as I can see there’s a very full hog or not at all, we are still at the point where there’s not a dynamic range of what people will accept or won’t have as it pertains to graphics/patterns/prints.
My interpretation of patterns prints and graphics comes from, over 10 years in the Art industry studying and developing keen sight for different techniques used in all art from different painting techniques; particular cutting techniques; and more to the point of this article; sorting what fashion designs belong in which art discipline. Kiko being Abstract Modernism and Yeezy fitting into biomorphism etc.
Biomorphic art Marc Newson & Mathian Bengtsson
As a start jump off point I want to use some of this seasons fashion shows and focus totally on the prints/patterns/graphics. Interpret them for what they mean to the trained eye of the artist. Not to drag on I will use 3 examples, and then give an overall thought on evolution points, much like my increasingly read A Dialogue on the new design language and Design Trends where I talk about the new design language, which will be developed after this. Talking more on the masculine functions of design in parity with the more feminine garments.
Richard Quinn is well known for flowery, 70’s table setting like print on his garments repurposed for high fashion. The purely British designer creates prints with the help of epsom, in recent years to create his appropriated Sentai Suit (sentai suit is Japanese fetish wear), in Britain its better known as the morph suit. He would be what would happen if (IG)Checking Invoices had a fashion house. The principles of Art he uses in presentation are quite dark and romantic, and has some comically hitchcock charm, nominally pointing to his 2016 collection. His amalgam of influences bought us here the brunt of his designs are graphic print influenced, and you can even call flowers his monogram. He does have some flashy big bold bright prints I see the most confident of people wearing, giving us true 70’s (tablecloth) glamour.
Fashion aesthetic wise they would call it maximalism, they are very much wear or be worn garments, pieces evening wear.
With all that being said Richard can be seen as too comical, and sarcastic as well as repetitive to some consumers and critics. This would not be the first time a designer took an idea for one collection and ran with it for the foreseeable future, I’m looking namely at Chanel and YSL. Both some great names to be in the same company with but were both known for one trick and didn’t evolve past that. As a fellow Briton I would hate to see Richard on the Parisian path of perishing by ones own sword.
Thebe Magugu SS21
Thebe Magugu is a designer and social activist who designs out of South Africa, who uses many pleats and patterns throughout his work. His womenswear takes deeply from his rich heritage with very feminine cuts and almost genderless tailoring. It’s safe to say for me he’s a great designer, for this collection in particular the graphics and prints were very much left on the nose. Possibly because the reference was so rich he decided not to adapt and conceptualise but that’s exactly when you should
As the above images give detail of the ideas Thebe gives us, as you can tell the right (Zebra Mud set) has had so much consideration put into the marbling and aurora. The history behind the look on the left of the scanned fingerprints from the South African spy Olivier Anne Marie Forsyth have had no art consideration taken past its use value making it much more pop art and Warholian than the dark and gothic principles he’s using for the collection. As we know his feminine aesthetic is not one that takes in masculine energy very well, so it envelopes it and you lose the grit that the collection is portraying feeling, more copy and paste than part of a seamless storytelling series. Of course there’s artistic interpretations but there is also pushing the boundaries of your art and experimentation, meaning you can have this along with another interpretation that we can see Thebe is really pulling and stretching her mind to curate.
I find storytelling of the upmost importance, in this collection it’s surely there the ask once that’s complete is delivering something more than we have seen from you at least. I would be remiss if I said it wasn’t important to plainly drive the point home with African history references, as for those who aren’t well read it’s the first time they seen them. So drip feeding can be seen as an artistic method, however I doubt he will use this reference in the near future as it’s not common for designers to repeat references.
Our generation is prone to storytelling and taking references what I pray for is being able to expand those references further. To do so – he would need to repeat this reference over in a series of collections to drive the point home – if that happens there’s much more stock in this collection.
Further than we have seen from any other generation before, as our interpolations should build up off previous generations, and not pop art rendition of things that are long past.
Dries Van Noten
I want to use Dries Van Noten as an example, first I would like to say I find his prints to be the best in the industry and most sensual and attractive. He has a good blend of masculine and feminine art pieces he blends season after season. As much as his art style is prominent it is still foundational to art, and there’s thorough thought put into which ones he chooses to put on garments and then on the runway. With a mix of all methods from photography to graphic design, photos manipulation, hydro dipping, water transfer printing; you can almost always say he has surrealism and abstract expressionism under his belt. Colour being high on the list, fashion people will call it maximalist. His work you can certainly call high fashion, for the decades he has been about the foundations certainly aren’t moved, people who are new to fashion are usually new to design and are learning on the fly while developing garments.
In the developments of prints patterns and graphics one has to think about use, texture, tone, value, placement on the body these are principles people pay high prices for and I will be writing about on later dates the gist of the philosophy behind it is the manipulation of masculine and feminine energies.
This comes from the type of colours and textures someone uses. The most blatant example would be Concrete Grey and, – you put both of those colours more often than not the masculine will be prone to picking grey, you see this in the casual dress of today as grey is easy to pair. – A choice between Rouge and Grey a more feminine person will be prone to picking that colour for no other reason than it looks pretty or aesthetic.
As the simple Gist of how colour effects the perception of an article of clothing. I want to get to the grouping of fabrics in the industry and their use value as it pertains to menswear and womenswear.
There are fabrics we see used over and over in womenswear, how those fabrics are interpreted in menswear is strikingly different in comparison. I will always use the tongue in cheek example of
“men need clothes they can fight in and regardless of the situation if the don’t feel comfortable fighting or running in them they won’t wear it.”
The reality is most time depending on the situation men will wear what’s necessary, the categories being work, chores, lounge, sport. Their fanciest clothes are usually their most expensive, going out clothes can range from a trackSUIT to a shirt and their best pair of jeans. That is fashion to most men and the fabrics reflect that Denim, polyester/cotton, wool some viscose coat with cotton/down filling. All easy wear and easy clean, the brunt of menswear has more to do with daily task than aesthetic.
In menswear silk is majority of the time pyjama – minority for evening wear – and for the adventurous, it has a silk screen decoration or some type of ornamental embroidery. On the womenswear side silk is used for a variety of clothing options, from dresses day wear evening wear, accessories, underwear and pyjamas. The utilisation of soft free flowing fabric in menswear is always taken as feminine. The cuts are more lounge orientated, in womenswear they’re diverse just as polyesters application would be in menswear. Linen, chiffon, and rayon are all treated in this same way for menswear with common deviation.
Leather on the other hand is used in both, mens and womenswear in high demand frequently for the same things. Jackets boots trousers gloves and sometimes hats, having such a hard fabric to manipulate being used in high demand isn’t common. There’s more of a luxury in leather works than let’s say denim, another common versatile fabric. What the difference may be in silk and leather, to the eye though is the texture. The rugged outer shell well cured skin of the animal hide that can be aged beautifully and give off a great patina for years to come, a skin that can be so supple and smooth and also ripple with the concave and convex grade of hide.
There’s many uses and manipulation value for leather, it’s versatility to be both hard and smooth, soft and gritty, no one will bat an eye whoever wears leather because it’s not just a luxury it’s real, it’s a reality fabric. You know the type of leather you wear says something about you, a material that can grow an age with you.
Breaking Print Boundaries
Creating prints in menswear are one of the more tougher things to do, men in general will commonly go for a plain type or small logo over a great big art piece. Although there’s some resurgence in the graphic tee sector of band tees from the 70’s/80’s and people updating these graphics. For today they are more often than not references of old graphics and not necessarily pushing boundaries of ornamentation. There’s not many ways people manipulate graphics or print, to have them both versed in the masculine and feminine like leather. Most ornamentation or decoration try to romance you, it’s rare to see a designer try to hit you over the head with a graphic or print. Some would say Mowalola with the leather coat collaboration but that is one instance of graphics and it was not elevated in any way.
What would be decent is seeing more masculine and more textures used in 2D graphic form transform them into patterns and prints for collections
What I love so much about the Louis Vuitton 2054 collection is that it utilises colour and texture in such a rich way and it’s actually trying to push the boundaries of what is acceptable for menswear.
There’s not many designations out there for what this collection was attempting which is why I still think of it today. I think much more can be done to manipulate the fundamental principles of leather into prints worthy of actions and highly confident garments.
To me this is a subject of inquiry worth delving into for more than a collection or two, an application of this sort should be in any collection that considers itself menswear moving forward. I have major ideas for applications of this sort and a library of graphic examples to take the curation of menswear to a new height and would love menswear designers to get round to making these collections more vibrant with prints patterns and graphics that aren’t flowers or type or some sort of floral motif.
I don’t have more to give without giving away my own personal well researched ideas but I do hope prints taking in more avant-garde masculine aesthetics within other labels and houses using this dissertation as a prompt to engage in a more thoughtful print dialogue when creating patterns for collections.