The brand’s latest collection, Salon 01 London, is a collaborative examination of process-oriented sensuality

There is something happening at Bottega Veneta. The Italian fashion house’s latest seasonal offering is another plot point in the brand’s evolutionary trajectory, as fashion wunderkind and creative director Daniel Lee—who arrived from Celine in 2018—brings simmering change to a boil with his latest collection. The chief creative question he asks with this season’s showing is: how are products turned into powerful objects of desires?

Lee’s answer to that question is sewn into this well-crafted collection, teeming with subtle sexual allure, as the brand further departs from its decades-long “stealth wealth” approach in which muted palettes and matte leather textures dominated its visual identity. Lee’s modernized vision of luxury includes deep v-neck dresses, A-line silhouettes, and full-length frontal zippers which lure the eye towards the human figure as our gaze traces garments’ winding cuts and hems from the shoulder to the equatorial beltline. In addition to design, the textural elements further contribute to the question of desire; the brand has migrated away from its love affair with leather, opting for colorful cable-stitched garments with tactile textures evoke our desire to touch (even in a socially distanced age). In this way, Lee creates a dialectic of desire in which the wearer and the worn are inseparable.

The para-fashionional happenings are also of intrigue as Lee cooks up change. Since his arrival, he has tapped British photographer Tyrone Lebon for Bottega Veneta’s campaign imagery; traditional and technically flawless photographs giving way to Lebon’s acerbic documentary gaze, in which motion-blur, beaming on-camera flash, and grainy film texture invite us in. In one of last season’s more salacious campaign images, the model Jean Campbell, stark-naked, is illuminated only by a camera’s flash as she clenches a gold chain that snakes from her grasp, extending to the foreground border and roping us into the frame. The picture is more fuzzy memory than fashion fantasy and we, the seduced viewers, are more active participants than passive voyeurs. And if the creative process has led to re-shaping the brand’s image, this season is a look inside that process itself.

In addition to the presentation video (also directed by Lebon) the new collection is released in a three-volume book series. Book 1—the Book of Daniel, if you will—is a scrapbook of Lee’s “collection of objects,” with collaged images that shed light on the creative director’s process. Book 2 is produced in collaboration with German conceptual artist Rosemarie Trockle (known for her process-oriented works called “Book Drafts”—go figure). Trockle, an elusive artist who evades genre, is known for challenging conventional ideas surrounding femininity and artistic process; she’s famously said, “The minute something works it ceases to be interesting.” Book 3 rounds out the tripartite soul of the collection’s viewing.

The brand caps off its seasonal affair by collaborating with British musician Nenah Cherry, who produced and recorded a spoken-word album exclusively for the presentation. We are thus invited to look and listen, to desire to touch, as Lee sculpts the brand to the contours of his creative taste.