Is Bottega Veneta the New (old) Céline?
As Phoebe Philo’s Céline fades further and further into the rear view mirror, where can we look for beacons of inspired minimalism? Gone are the days of the iconic Daria Werbowy and Juergen Teller campaigns. The brutalist architecture references. The Joan Didion cameos. Of course, there will always be the archives (and ahem, The RealReal is the perfect place to scout for #oldcéline finds). But mining that finite collection isn’t quite the same as the excited expectancy of seeing new designs walk the runway, appear in campaigns and hit the shelves at stores IRL.
Perhaps we need a protégé? There’s good news on that front. Philophiles’ prayers may be answered in Daniel Lee, former ready-to-wear director at Céline in the era of Philo, and recently tapped Creative Director at Bottega Veneta. As his new designs have emerged since his Fall 2019 debut runway collection, there has been a distinctly Céline-esque vibe in the air again. Here, we break down their common ground.
The Art School Connection
Philo and Lee both designed for Céline, but their common fashion paths don’t end there. In fact, they started in the same place: Central Saint Martins, the London art school famous for turning out some of fashion’s most celebrated and innovative designers (viz. Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Stella McCartney and Marc Jacobs to name a few). Philo’s 1996 graduation collection is said to have included “huge gold jewelry,” a thread that seems fairly easy to trace to the influential statement jewelry she would later design at Céline — though mysteriously record of those designs has gone missing. On the other hand, Daniel Lee’s designs for the 2011 CSM graduation show are available, and in them you can see shapes and ideas he brings to Bottega — the asymmetrically draped dresses, coats and sweaters for FW19 and Resort 20 may now be accented with chunky, woven details instead of knots (only right for the house known for all things intrecciato), but the throughline is there.
Post-graduation they each cut their teeth assisting other designers. Philo followed her schoolmate Stella McCartney to Chloé before later taking over as the label’s Creative Director. Lee worked at Maison Margiela, Balenciaga and Donna Karan post-graduation. When Lee landed at Céline as Director of Ready-To-Wear Design during Phoebe’s tenure, they were at the same place once again.
Bottega Veneta Maxi Cabat, one of Daniel Lee’s first designs for the brand
The Digital-Recluse-With-An-Obsessive-Insta-Following Phenomenon
Daniel Lee is not on Instagram. His absence on the platform has a whiff of digital purism even though he claims, “I just don’t like it [Instagram], but that doesn’t mean I’m serious!” Either way, he’s a man after Phoebe’s own heart. Once proclaiming that “The chicest thing is when you don’t exist on Google,” Philo has also avoided a personal presence on social media. It’s a move that seems to underscore the attitude that her designs don’t need to be overshared or intellectually explained — they speak for themselves.
But that hasn’t stopped fans. Exhibit A: In the wake of Philo’s departure, collective grief and admiration found an outlet in viral Insta account @oldcéline. Created by Toronto-based graphic designer Gabriella Boucinha, it’s an archive of iconic campaign imagery, reposts from Céline obsessives and features on Phoebe that’s become the virtual gathering place for anyone who wants to keep the spirit of Céline alive. But if @oldcéline is an elegy for the end of an era, Daniel Lee’s Insta stan account is all about the future. Which brings us to Exhibit B: @newbottega. A kind of twin to #oldcéline, it was also created by a devoted fan, Italian fashion student Laura Rossi, eager to compile inspo for existing and emerging designs by Lee. Want to see what fashion people are putting in their new It clutch pouches (answer: lemons, wine, beauty products, more pouches)? Can’t get enough square-toe sandals? Excited about a cool, exaggerated new take on intrecciato? It’s all there. And like @oldceline, it’s a place where fans can share their own photos and (chicly) geek out on their collective love for a brand that speaks to them about something more than just fashion.