BOTTEGA VENETA: A JOURNEY OF LUXURY AND CRAFTSMANSHIP
Few labels have maintained their place in fashion’s sphere of influence, like Bottega Veneta. From humble roots in 1960s Vicenza, Italy, the house has become one of the industry’s most significant heritage brands. It now boasts a cohort of cult-worthy pieces ranging from statement Intrecciato weave bags and electric-hued mules to ready-to-wear designs that have helped pioneer a new wave of quiet luxury responsible for gripping pop culture.
But Bottega Veneta’s journey has been far from a typical fashion success story. From enjoying worldwide fame and being under the creative direction of fashion’s most revered designers to nearing the verge of bankruptcy, the house has a long and storied past. So, let’s look at Bottega Veneta's history to discover more about its identity, place in fashion’s cultural zeitgeist and where the brand is heading.
It was 1966 when Michele Taddei and Renzo Zengiaro founded Bottega Veneta as a purveyor of the finest leather goods in Vicenza, Italy. Owing to the brand’s goal of crafting quality, non-branded pieces, the name translates to ‘Venetian shop’. Channelling the allure of minimalism, Bottega Veneta set about focusing on understated style, a concept that’s still integral to the label today.
The 1970s saw the introduction of what’s now regarded as Bottega Veneta’s most iconic design feature - the Intrecciato weave. Honouring the label’s roots in artisanship, the famous technique involves braiding strips of double-faced leather to create a distinct textured chequered look that, once released, proved so unique it quickly became synonymous with the brand. Bottega Veneta even launched an advertisement showcasing bags and shoes featuring its Intrecciato weave with the slogan “When your own initials are enough”. The brand found widespread success with this strong marketing concept during the 1960s and 1970s Taddei’s ex-wife, Laura Braggion, acted as Bottega Veneta’s Creative Director and was a significant factor in driving the brand’s early success. She helped boost the label’s awareness within the US. In the 1980s, the Italian fashion house began to earn notable artists and celebrities as fans. Andy Warhol was reportedly a regular at the New York boutique and even made the short film “Bottega Veneta Industrial Videotape” in 1985.
Bottega Veneta was founded on the principle of elegance through simplicity, famously championing Italian craftsmanship through refined and minimalist designs. So with the advent of logomania in the 1990s, the brand naturally struggled. Straying from its roots, Bottega began to focus on trendy styles and started centring logos on many of its products. The label’s popularity subsequently dropped and by the end of the century, the once burgeoning fashion house was on the brink of bankruptcy.
The Gucci Group’s Take Over
In the new millennium, Bottega Veneta was headed for a fresh start. The Gucci Group (now owned by luxury conglomerate Kering) acquired the label in 2001 under the leadership of Tom Ford, who accurately foresaw Bottega’s potential. German fashion designer Tomas Maier became the brand’s Creative Director, a position he held until 2018.
During the early aughts, Maier returned the house to its minimalist and logoless design roots and introduced classic designer bags like the Cabat in 2001 and the cult-favourite Knot Clutch in 2002, which have since become some of the most sought-after vintage Bottega Veneta styles in modern times. Once more, leather artisanship was placed at the forefront of the Italian brand, and the Bottega Intrecciato bag again became a symbol of understated luxury. But the label only regained the success enjoyed in its early years in the late 2010s when British fashion designer Daniel Lee took the reins.
The Brand’s Revival Under Daniel Lee
When Lee took over as Creative Director of Bottega Veneta in 2018, he redefined the label’s understated luxury concept with striking silhouettes, intoxicating colour palettes and envy-inducing classic designer bags. Put simply, Lee ushered in a new wave of style which offered a contemporary update to Bottega’s intrinsically minimalist design DNA. From a slew of increasingly covetable leather and Bottega Intrecciato bags to introducing what’s been dubbed ‘Bottega Green’- lauded as the most popular colour of 2021 by WWD - Lee’s Bottega has been nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Under Lee’s direction, the label’s runway shows became one of Fashion Week’s most anticipated events. Routinely debuting many ready-to-wear designs, Lee’s take on the Italian heritage house quickly developed a signature aesthetic, notably fringe, sharp tailoring and contemporary knits. Statement shoes quickly became a Bottega staple, with styles like the chunky Lug boots and striking square-toe padded leather mules established as firm fan favourites.
But no aspect of Lee’s tenure at the brand proved as critical to Bottega Veneta’s revival as handbags. The late 2010s and early 2020s saw Bottega Veneta release more lust-worthy classic designer bags than most brands managed to launch in decades. Standouts included the croissant-shaped Jodie and boxy Cassette designs featuring the house’s classic Intrecciato weave. Sleek and simplistic, these styles championed Bottega’s signature leather artisanship and became cult-worthy accessories regularly trending on social media and appearing in the arms of fashion insiders. They consistently prove some of the most desired pre-loved Bottega Veneta finds, with limited-edition iterations increasingly hard to source.
However, Lee’s most iconic addition to Bottega Veneta’s handbag offerings was even more straightforward. The Pouch was introduced as part of the brand’s Spring/Summer 2019 collection. Unstructured, logoless and understated, the buttery-soft leather bag was the antithesis of many of fashion’s most popular styles at the time. Catching the attention of fashion editors and consumers alike, Bottega Veneta’s Pouch became one of the most unlikely ‘It’ bags of the decade and remains a brand icon.
Under Daniel Lee's direction, Bottega Veneta experienced a transformative period marked by a modern aesthetic and a focus on reinventing the brand's iconic elements. Lee's designs embraced a minimalist approach, combining clean lines, bold textures, and unique silhouettes. His reinterpretation of the Intrecciato bag, featuring oversized proportions and unexpected colour combinations, breathed new life into the classic design.
Lee's tenure at Bottega Veneta witnessed a remarkable surge in popularity, with the brand becoming a favourite among fashion insiders and celebrities alike. The distinctive Bottega Veneta bag, now often called the "Daniel Lee bag," became an iconic statement piece sought after by collectors and fashion enthusiasts worldwide.
The success of Bottega Veneta's reinvention extended beyond bags, as Lee's designs expanded into other categories, including footwear, clothing, and accessories. His fresh take on the brand's heritage resonated with a new generation of consumers seeking quality and contemporary style.
Matthieu Blazy and the New Wave of Quiet Luxury
The announcement of Lee’s departure from the house he famously reawakened sent shock waves through the fashion industry. In his place entered Matthieu Blazy, a French-Belgian designer who previously worked with Raf Simons at Calvin Klein. Capitalising on fashion’s latest ‘Quiet Luxury’ phenomenon, Blazy has successfully utilised Bottega Veneta’s minimalist design ethos and roots in leather artisanship to reinterpret the label’s signatures. His latest creations for the house include the coveted new Sardine and Andiamo bags and a cohort of elegant ready-to-wear tailoring.
Bottega Veneta has continued to thrive in recent years, solidifying its position as one of the most coveted luxury brands globally. The brand's commitment to craftsmanship and innovation remains at the forefront of its identity, ensuring its continued success in the ever-evolving fashion landscape.
For those seeking a piece of Bottega Veneta's legacy, pre-loved Bottega Veneta bags have become highly sought after. These vintage treasures carry the brand's timeless appeal, showcasing the impeccable craftsmanship that has defined Bottega Veneta for decades.
As Bottega Veneta moves forward, its history and reputation as a purveyor of exquisite design and craftsmanship serve as a testament to its enduring legacy. The collaboration with Daniel Lee has undoubtedly played a pivotal role in shaping the brand's contemporary identity, captivating fashion enthusiasts and securing its place as an icon.