Will China Buy Bottega Veneta Without Daniel Lee?

What Happened: On November 10, fashion conglomerate Kering announced the shock split between its Italian luxury house Bottega Veneta and creative director, Daniel Lee. The news came as a surprise even industry insiders. Lee, who only joined the company in 2018 at age 32, was an unexpected hire but managed to transform the house known for its minimal, logoless products and signature intrecciato weaving style. In a statement, the group described the news as a “joint decision,” and Kering reported that it would unveil the brand’s new creative leadership shortly.

The Jing Take: Up until now, Bottega Veneta and Daniel Lee seemed like a match made in heaven. Lee’s singular design vision created the so-called “New Bottega” which blazed a trial since his hire. Kering reported stable growth over the third fiscal quarter, and Bottega’s revenue was $417 million (363.4 million euros) — not too shabby. Now, this unexpected departure raises much speculation as to why the relationship soured and on the low-key house’s future in the China market.

Local consumers had warmed up to this revamp and Lee’s playful-yet-chic leather accessories and leather goods created hype, attracting Gen-Z shoppers in spades. Meanwhile, the brand’s visibility on the Mainland was boosted by healthy track record of influencers (including INTO1 idol group member Mika, actress Zhouyutong, Bi Wenjun and others) which helped make up for a lack of online marketing.

Boyband stars Mika (left) and Bi Wenjun (right) promote Bottega Veneta’s Salon 03 and Salon 02, respectively. Photo: Weibo

Even so, Lee’s tenure failed to make any real impact on ready-to-wear sales (an ongoing issue that predates him) although, given more time, he might well have reeled younger fans into this category. Moreover, with 39 stores it could do with expanding its retail footprint in order to physically reach shoppers. For example, it lags behind stablemate Saint Laurent’s 50.

The Yorkshire native will be a massive loss to the brand, and there’s no immediate contender out there to replace him. Upset netizens stated that “Daniel Lee saved Bottega Veneta,” and they “can’t imagine BV without Daniel Lee.” Where Lee goes next will be a hotly anticipated topic (Burberry perhaps?). In the meantime, half of China’s luxury consumers are under 31, making up 46 percent of its consumption. Undoubtedly, Bottega’s next appointment must replicate Lee’s magic and square up to the demands of China’s youngsters.  

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.


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