He’s been the hope of every Phoebe Philo fan in fashion since she left Céline: Daniel Lee, a former designer on her team, made his runway debut at Bottega Veneta on Friday morning in a specially erected glass pavilion on Piazza Sempione. The decor was sleek and stark, benches covered in Bottega Veneta’s signature woven leather in brown and duck egg blue. The pent up longing is for the kind of sophisticated, effortless and glamorously minimalist wardrobe Philo offered women at Céline, fused with the leather heritage and good taste of Bottega Veneta. Lee’s proposal saw an intricate aesthetic of architectural constructions and elaborate garments with post-apocalyptic rigour.
What the women, who fell bereft by Philo’s departure from fashion, keep reverberating is this: a need for intelligent simplicity in fashion rather than the perambulating art installations designers often envision. “We like to stand out in an art fair, but we don’t want to be confused with the work,” one such Philophile quipped at me just last week. Lee offered some of the garments essential to that wardrobe: a black coat evoking Bottega Veneta’s leather weave but in cloth, a rigid and flared black tuxedo trouser with a ribbed panel down the side, and a long-sleeved knitted turtleneck dress in charcoal with a cut-out and arched décolletage. It also appeared in aubergine.
Elsewhere, the 32-year-old Brit put his directional ambition in top gear. Knitted dresses were decorticated and interspliced, tailoring with fluid cut-outs lined in padded leather recalled retro futurism, and super sculpted blazers and coats with magnified and raised neck and shoulder lines felt decidedly strenuous. But while his Pre-Fall collection suggested it, Lee never said he joined Bottega Veneta to continue the mission of his former boss. It was a pity that the young designer declined interviews backstage, the congregated established fashion press gathered around him to get acquainted.
It would have been enlightening to get Lee’s reflections on the dystopian undertone that solidified in those stompy sci-fi boots and rigid black leather motorcycle suit. Some were also curious to learn what thoughts went into his terrific accessories: blunt-toed quilted heels – an early success continued from the Pre-Fall collection – and chic bourgeois-moderne loafers in duck egg blue felt fresh, not a severe pointed boot in sight. That philosophy would be a great way forward for Lee: a touch of softening and simplification within his tweaks to familiar silhouettes, along with more clarified styling and point-of-view casting.
On the menswear side, hacked-up black and navy roll-necks and cut-glass black tailoring and power coats that would make The Matrix swoon amplified Lee’s dystopian sci-fi. It was exemplified in a wildly boxy, cape-sleeved, lapel-less black blazer worn bombastically over an all-leather motorcycle suit, the trouser tucked into an unyielding Storm Trooper leather boot. But the delicate elegance of a very contrasting transparent blouse worn under a delectable skinny black overcoat with nice black trousers and a black capitonnage leather derby ticked all the boxes for that elevated everyday wardrobe that men hanker after, too.