Up until today, Bottega Veneta has kept a relatively low profile in the last year. Creative director Tomas Maier, who helmed the brand for 17 years before leaving in June, maintained an enduring aesthetic during his tenure. So, naturally, when Daniel Lee took over in June after a 5-year stint as Céline’s director of ready-to-wear under Phoebe Philo, people were unsure of what to expect. What contribution would Lee make to Bottega? Would he just copy the work he did at Céline? Would he pay homage to the brand’s history? Recently he presented his first official collection for Bottega Veneta for the Pre-Fall 2019 season, and it turns out he might just be the antidote to all of the hemming and hawing over Hedi Slimane’s creative (mis)direction at Celine.

In other words: Lee’s first collection isn’t just good, it’s great. And it celebrates everything we admire about Bottega Veneta but seldom give it credit for: soft edges on strong silhouettes, its care and craftsmanship toward textiles like leather, silk, and wool, and its subtlety when it comes to wearing clothes you can just tell are worth the price tag. The exact same could be said for old Céline, too, which is why the collection is already being heralded as the replacement we’ve been yearning for — a suggestion that the younger generation of men may know how to dress women during fashion’s most culturally sensitive and provocative age. (Just look at the men of Proenza Schouler, Wes Gordon of Carolina Herrera, or Casey Cadwallader at Mugler.)
The main takeaways: slouched evening-to-sunrise dresses, humble hues (camel, off-white, forest green, deep orange), knitwear to rival that of Céline itself, signature details like the intrecciato (weaved leather), clunky footwear, a few athleisure cameos, and elegant jewelry. If Lee maintains this restrained approach, he could cement his tenure there as opposed to staying for a couple of years and bouncing due to creative restraints or trickle-down pressure from the top.
Lee’s pre-fall 2019 collection for Bottega Veneta paid homage to some of the best parts of Milanese fashion — a strong sense of identity, a focus on timelessness in the form of wardrobe essentials, and a sensuality that other European houses lack. He may not yet be the industry’s It-Boy, but he’s one of the few out there who know it takes more than influence to sell clothes.