TEXT BY NATALIE YIASSOUMI
Is the ‘New Bottega’ frenzy here to stay?
Last season, Bottega Veneta’s square-toe, mesh anklet pumps didn’t even make it online to Net-a-Porter.com — VIP shoppers had already snapped up the retailer’s entire buy ahead of time via pre-orders.
For spring 2020, Net-a-Porter bought even deeper into creative director Daniel Lee’s updated version of the anklet pump, placed a re-order of over 2,000 pieces and is still expecting VIPs to reserve the majority of units of the It-shoe yet again.
But why are all these Bottega shoes flying off every retailer’s shelf?
Two years ago news of Phoebe Philo’s exit from Celine left a legion of sworn-minimalists – otherwise known as Philo-philes – heavy-hearted. The @oldceline account came to life on Instagram filled with nostalgic images of seasons past; the brand’s chic, bi-color ‘Madame’ boots caused retail frenzy — and the hunt for the next Philo began.
That’s where Lee, a Celine alumnus, came in. His association with Philo meant that before he even presented his first collection all eyes were on him. Naturally, that was also one of the primary reasons his modernist interpretation of Bottega – which comes complete with everyone’s beloved square-toe mules – was such a quick-fire success. There was a big, engaged audience of stylish women who were hungry for more fashion-forward yet minimalist pieces – and of course the next ‘Madame’ boot.
Bottega Veneta are having its accessories dominate the market,” said Net-a-Porter’s global buying director Elizabeth von der Goltz.
Lee delivered just that: There was hit after hit with his sleek leather pieces, roomy pouches and of course the plethora of it-shoes, from the mules, to the chunky ankle boots and chic hardware-embellished pumps.
Retail frenzy ensued with personal shoppers scouring the globe for Bottega shoes and armies of fashion editors, buyers and influencers wearing the Lido mules, quilted leather pumps and matching pouches like an unofficial uniform over the past show season.
But is it just because of the association with Phoebe Philo and Old Celine that Lee’s Bottega Veneta has been resonating with women across the globe and the waiting list for every shoe style he designs becoming mile-long?
Many would argue otherwise. Lee also managed to strike an emotional cord among the type of customer looking for a cool yet timeless look that doesn’t necessarily shout ‘Look at me.’ He was the right person at the right time and he’s giving luxury customers what they want, as the pendulum swings and people move away from the louder, flashier trends, be it logo-mania, fur-lined Gucci slippers or larger-than-life Balenciaga sneakers.
Lee is treating the house and its existing customers with respect, balancing long-held traditions like the signature ‘Intrecciato’ or woven leather and the brand’s flair for classic shapes with his own modernist outlook. This gentler approach of a young, previously unknown designer gradually making his way to the top, simply makes for a more appealing story to that of the big-name creative director coming into a luxury house and wiping everything away to enforce his vision. There are also practical reasons women can’t get enough of his shoes, primarily comfort.
The shoes are currently some of the most comfortable I have in my closet. They come with padded rubber soles, quite a rare feature on mules and sandals, which makes them more durable than similar styles by other brands in the market,” said Sandra Hagelstam, founder of this site and fellow shoe aficionado, also pointing to how easy it is to pair the shoes with anything and everything in your closet.
These are some of the many reasons that led to Lee snapping up a record-breaking four awards at the Fashion Awards in London earlier this month, including brand of the year, designer of the year, British women’s wear designer and of course, accessories designer of the year.
“For me, accessories are the key to modern dressing and I’m incredibly proud so many of you choose to live with our pieces every day and to express your style through them,” said Lee when he accepted his award with supermodel Rosie Huntington-Whiteley by his side, who also happens to be one of his biggest fans and owner of myriads of strappy Bottega sandals, mules and boots.
Huntington-Whiteley is certainly not alone. The brand’s famous fans include Kate Bosworth, Elsa Hosk and front row attendees across the globe.
The question that remains: Will the buying frenzy last? Buyers say that Bottega has been growing at a faster rate than Gucci and Balenciaga did during their hey-days and there’s no sign of slowing down anytime soon.
The brand keeps bringing out its shoes and bags in multiple colorways to capitalise on the momentum, while its Cruise 2020 Lido shoes, which have just dropped in stores, are proving a hit yet again. But it’s easy to see that a point of saturation might be near, with Bottega shoes getting a bit too popular and over-exposed. Yet even when the hype does eventually die down, everyone’s wardrobes are more likely to be left with chic, neutral-toned collectors’ pieces rather than ‘What was I thinking?’ kind-of-purchases.
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