Bottega Veneta RTW Spring 2021

Like many designers, Daniel Lee did things differently for spring in what has been a topsy-turvy year. The Bottega Veneta show usually takes place in Italy, but the Yorkshire-born Lee, who works between London and Milan, opted for his home country, given the unusual circumstances.

In early October, on a damp and drizzly afternoon, he staged a salon show in front of a small audience at London’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre and turned the spectacle into a film that will make its debut on Monday on the brand’s web site and social channels.

The film, Salon 01 London, features backstage footage and a theatrical setting, with dramatic lighting and music by Neneh Cherry. As part of his spring 2021 oeuvre, Lee also tapped Rosemarie Trockel, the German conceptual artist, to create a book of photographs and reflections on clothing, style and coming of age, called “The Importance of Wearing Clothes.”

Bottega Veneta RTW Spring 2021

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The book formed part of a haul of imagery and creative inspirations that Lee sent to press and members of the industry ahead of the film’s debut.

Trockel described Lee as a “silent, gentle presence with an extreme focus on his work. He never wastes his breath on superfluous chatter.” She said her photographs were based on “an almost daily flow of objects, both material experiments and finished garments,” that came from Lee and his team.

In this latest coed effort, Lee talked about reaffirming Bottega’s codes “with a human touch,” and the collection was tactile, crafty and lots of fun.

It was also relaxed and intimate. At the Sadler’s Wells show, there was no front row, and indeed, no rows at all: White folding chairs were scattered around the venue, while models wound their way around the space with only in-house staff filming and snapping.

(VIP guests including Cherry; Kanye and North West; Stormzy; Alessandra Ferri; Michael Clark; Sue Webster and Sadie Coles attended a second salon show, staged later that evening).

Masked guests had to switch off their phones, and while Lee took a short bow at the end, there was no rush backstage. It was a refreshingly quiet affair.

Lee draped his models in soft, nubby knitwear; chunky chain stitch crocheted sweaters, and textured tailoring. Other outfits were not as softly spoken, though. Skirts came edged with polished wooden beads that clicked gently as models walked, while minidresses and matching mules tinkled with paillettes like little seashells.

Lee, whose past collections have been packed with puckered, puffy and squishy leathers, channeled that volume into other materials including the long, cozy dress that Adwoa Aboah wore for the finale, with würstel-shaped embellishments at the hips.

Volume also came in the form of floppy knitted clutches like small comfort blankets — get ready for those to fly on social media — or bigger leather bags that looked as if they’d been made from paper chains.

Lee took comfort to heart — and who wouldn’t after months spent with Netflix, roomy clothing and a sourdough starter as constant companions? But all of that softness and comfort had a glam edge, giving everyone a reason to make an effort, come spring and come the vaccine.

Roomy boiler suits had halter tops, while dresses were long and forgiving of the figure, with smocking at the bodice. Other dresses were pieced together from a lattice of colored macramé flowers.

Lee took a similar approach to men’s wear with lots of fluid, wide-leg trousers, slouchy knit suits, chubby crocheted sweaters, bum bags or tiny clutches.

Footwear was sculptural and sturdy — as in platform mules in candy colors — or made for agile moves. Men and women alike wore patchwork martial arts shoes with wide leg, floppy trousers like painter’s pants — all of them ready to step, jump and leap into 2021.

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