Bottega Veneta stunned the fashion world last week when it announced that it was parting ways with designer Daniel Lee, who had reinvigorated the Italian leather goods house known for “stealth wealth” in just over three years there. The abrupt announcement left the fashion world wondering whether Lee was headed for other pastures, but also curious about the future of the brand that has been a keystone of Kering’s pandemic success story. (The conglomerate’s stock fell 2.5% immediately upon news of Lee’s departure before dipping another 1% as the news sunk in the next day. That may not sound like a lot, but that original divot is equivalent to the Pinaults, the family that owns Kering, losing $860 million in wealth, according to journalist Christina Binkley.)
Today, the brand announced Lee’s successor: Matthieu Blazy, who has been the design director of Bottega since June of 2020. “Matthieu Blazy is an extraordinarily talented individual, whom I am proud and excited to entrust with the creative helm of our luxury House,” Leo Rongone, the CEO of Bottega Veneta, said in a statement. “Bottega Veneta has always been equated with signature craftsmanship and distinctive creativity. Matthieu’s appointment will further enhance the modern relevance of our brand and accelerate our growth, while preserving the values that are at the core of Bottega Veneta.” For Bottega, Lee was a “collaboration;” Blazy, meanwhile is an entrusted appointment.
The choice of his replacement also tells us more about the nature of Lee’s departure. Reading between the lines, it seems clear that the exit wasn’t related to the brand’s performance or aesthetic; something else was clearly going on behind all the hyped clothing and hit accessories. WWD ran a piece late Wednesday suggesting that Lee’s approach alienated colleagues and led to several operational departures. Still, the financial success suggests that the products themselves were working, and understandably, Kering brass wants to do little to disrupt the aesthetic that has made the label one of the buzziest in high fashion. And in appointing Blazy, who is well versed in Lee’s New Bottega—as Binkley pointed out on Twitter, “he knows Bottega’s codes and understands Lee’s additions”—suggests the general direction will stay the same. Whether the brand will continue with its eccentric marketing efforts—the zines, the techno destination shows, and, to the dismay of the fashion industry, no Instagram—remains to be seen.
What fashion fans do have to look forward to is the public coronation of a fashion industry vet with fantastic credentials who will likely make Bottega’s luster even more about the clothes. Blazy, who is a protégé of Raf Simons and designed for Calvin Klein while Simons headed up the brand, has a reputation as a designer’s designer. His name first came to prominence when he worked at Martin Margiela, in the pre-John Galliano years, though the house at that time had a policy of revealing no designers by name. (Suzy Menkes famously broke with tradition when she posted an image of Blazy with Simons and identified him as the designer of Margiela’s Artisanal label, which is the avant-garde house’s answer to couture.) Indeed, the online fashion commentariat—particularly the scholars of HF Twitter—may find even more to like about Bottega now.
As for Lee’s future? There are already rumors that he’s keen to reunite with Phoebe Philo, whom he worked for at Céline, at her newly launched namesake fashion brand. Given the success he had at Bottega, there are also whispers the launch of his own Daniel Lee brand could be in the offing.
Additional reporting by Cam Wolf.