On Tuesday 5 January 2021, Bottega Veneta deleted its social media accounts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The Italian luxury fashion house based in Milan and currently helmed by creative director Daniel Lee, who was previously described as “the quiet radical” by British Vogue, has not yet made a statement about the reason and duration of its social media blackout. This didn’t stop rumours from spreading however.
By saying goodbye to its nearly four-million cumulative followers across Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, Bottega Veneta has led many fashion enthusiasts to wonder whether the move is either a genius PR stunt or a definite break from our now normalised (yet toxic) social media habits. Either way, there’s one more question that seems to doom over the rest of the fashion industry: will this new approach reverberate across the industry?
Lee has long proven his ‘internet shyness’ and his indifference towards following social trends. For example, Céline (where Lee was director of ready-to-wear design for years) was one of the last major labels to join Instagram in 2017, but still, it didn’t need to join at all. Even without a social media presence, the brand had managed to cultivate what Highsnobiety called “a cult following of influential women” who associated themselves with the brand entirely because of its discreteness.
Before Céline finally joined Instagram (now rebranded as CELINE), the label already benefited from loyal fan accounts posting its products on their feeds—doing the hard work successfully, should I add. And the same can be said for Bottega Veneta. There are countless Bottega Veneta fan accounts on Instagram.
“New Bottega, for example, already counts 355,000 followers—a number that will surely grow considering the official account’s disappearance—meaning Bottega doesn’t actually need to be there in order for its collections to circulate,” writes Highsnobiety.
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Furthermore, Bottega Veneta’s Spring/Summer 2021 collection was presented before a shortlist of industry leaders and big-name influencers, in contrast to the swath of attendees you typically see lining the runway at fashion week. HYPEBEAST had described it as a “hush-hush spectacle” attended by Kanye and North West among other guests.
Add to this the fact that Lee has never had his own Instagram account, and things suddenly seem to tilt more towards a potential social media goodbye. Lee is notoriously private and has said a couple of times that social media is simply not his thing. “He rarely does interviews, rarely gives extra context to his collections, and makes a point of banning huge audiences at his shows,” says Highsnobiety about the designer.
But privacy doesn’t equal a small reach for Bottega Veneta—on the contrary, since Lee first took the reins in 2018, the brand has banged out hit after hit. Almost every influencer and editor on the planet owns a pair of Bottega Tire boots, which have now been replaced by the Puddle boots.
In a way, Bottega Veneta has always had the advantage of ranking among the most famous and luxurious brands such as Chanel and Prada, without ever becoming so omnipresent that it risked becoming overexposed, unlike the latter. That’s why deleting all social media channels could actually be a smart move.
It’s a luxury label for people that want luxury in a somewhat discreet way—not that there’s anything wrong with flashy logos and celebrity campaigns! But Bottega Veneta is known for its traditional approach to fashion, which is exactly what allows it to be so innovative yet classic.
While Business of Fashion rightly notes fashion’s growing reliance on social media as a marketing tool and direct line of communication with customers, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, over the past year, many fashion brands have also had to realise the drawbacks that come with influencer marketing and adapt to them accordingly.
That’s exactly where the idea of what is sometimes called ‘old’ and ‘new’ luxury respectively will be once more redefined. In an industry where digital clout has quickly become the path to brand relevance, will Instagram scrolls become as ‘worthless’ as traditional print media? I personally see both as equally important, but perhaps this sudden change will force advertisers to invest their money somewhere else?
As Instagram slowly but surely gets swapped for TikTok, most fashion brands are still struggling to find the right approach needed to be accepted on this younger, more animated video-sharing platform. If the rumours are true, at least Bottega Veneta won’t have to worry about it.
In the context of a global pandemic as well as socio-economic and political uprisings and movements around the world, fashion week seems like the last of our concerns. Regardless, like every year and every season, the fashion world put its spotlight on the city of lights from the 28 September until the 6 October as fashion houses presented their womenswear ready-to-wear Spring/Summer 2021 collections.
This year’s edition was radically different: due to the sanitary requirements and the travel restrictions linked to COVID-19, only a dozen brands decided to proceed with a physical show or presentation. Most of them chose to either retrieve themselves from the fashion calendar completely or present digitally instead.
As some houses successfully resonated with 2020 (at large) with such grace and relevance, some presentations and brand initiatives seemed out of touch. Here’s what you missed from this last Paris Fashion Week.
The few big houses that were still left in this season’s calendar seemed (very) disconnected, from Chanel’s Hollywood-inspired extravaganza at the Grand Palais, to Isabel Marant’s dance performance, beautiful collections or not, shows felt inappropriate in today’s context.
However, a few brands such as Dior made a little more effort to resonate with the current social environment. The fashion house invited the artist Lucia Marcucci, known for her feminist collages to emulate stained-glass windows as a backdrop for the runway with visuals inspired by today’s global circumstances. Louis Vuitton also aimed to be slightly more ‘inclusive’ by creating a visually impactful superlative live streaming experience that could be enjoyed by ‘everyone’ online.
This Fashion Week highlighted the creativity of small and independent houses and younger designers who adapted to the pandemic-related restrictions and made an effort to engage in meaningful conversations that resonate with today’s realities. Brands abandoned the idea of creating costly, unsustainable set productions.
To mention a few, the duo behind Coperni, Arnaud Vaillant and Sébastien Meyer, presented their SS21 collection on the second day of Paris Fashion Week on the top of the Montparnasse Tower, Paris’s tallest skyscraper, which offered a spectacular view to their guests. The collection emphasised technological innovation and the use of smart garments that protect our bodies: the technical jersey fabric used in Coperni’s new collection is antibacterial, moisturising and offers UV protection.
The brand AMI decided to present its women and men’s SS21 collection during Women’s Fashion Week in ‘real life’ on a beautiful Saturday evening. “This season, more than ever, it is important for us to come back to our roots and bring everyone together,” said founder and creative director Alexandre Mattiussi, adding that “Paris is AMI’s hometown and an essential part of its DNA. For Spring/Summer 2021, I really wanted to highlight it, its beauty, its energy, its elegance.”
AMI’s fashion show took place outdoors on the Quai Henri IV by the Seine river. The models walked down the runway with minimal lighting and Paris by night as a backdrop. The collection was faithful to the brand’s aesthetic, featuring black, navy and neutral colours along with the brand’s signature well-tailored pieces with a ‘twist’. The show was perfectly uplifted by the extraordinary street casting executed by Ibrahim Tarouhit, which was an ode to Paris and France’s diversity. The show featured new faces and unprofessional models that were scouted specifically for this occasion from all ages but also included emerging French musicians and artists such as Ichon, Lala &ce and Le Diouck, putting forward the next generation of creatives.
A multitude of other houses decided to use Paris as their source of inspiration but instead reiterated and prioritised the socio-political discourse of their shows, tackling issues such as the industry’s lack of representation and sustainability.
Koché, for example, presented its SS21 collection in Les Buttes Chaumont, one of Paris’ largest parks located in the 20th district. With the brand already being notorious for its sustainable and socially-conscious narrative, Christelle Kocher insisted on doing a physical show as “an act of resistance,” particularity in this park and in this neighbourhood where she lives, not because of its recent gentrification but because of its socio-economic heterogeneity. This initiative delivered a strong message: that we should all be able to enjoy mother nature equally and therefore we should preserve it collectively, indirectly addressing the question of environmental racism, urbanism and territorial disparity.
XULY.Bët decided to present its SS21 collection at L’aiguillage, an old train station rehabilitated by the brand’s founder and creative director Lamine Badian Kouyaté located in Ivry-Sur-Seine, in the outskirts of Paris. The theme of the collection, which was made out of upcycled pieces and fabric from the brand itself was centred around unity and positivism. This idea further reverberated through the show with Angela Davis’ quote, who opened the show stating that 2020 is not worse than other years, but that “we open our eyes to society’s dysfunctions” and because of this, “everything will change.”
Personality and family being at the core of Kouyaté’s work, the casting of the show, which included friends of the house, an ex-Miss France, French rapper Kalash and foil fencer Ysaora Thibus, was a tribute to the brand’s essence.
Austrian-Nigerian designer Kenneth Ize, who joined Paris Fashion Week last season, presented his SS21 collection featuring his cult signature stripes and bold colours at the Palais de Tokyo. Parisian artist Maty Biayenda was also invited to live-paint a gigantic canvas alongside the 3-hour presentation. Ize’s work and Biayenda’s painting were both a celebration of blackness intended as a message of cheery defiance against opponents of LGBTQIA+ rights in Nigeria, where homosexuality is punishable by a prison sentence of up to 14 years.
Some houses, like Balmain, decided to have a subtler yet powerful socio-political stand. The brand’s SS21 collection, which featured both women’s and men’s styles, was presented in the Jardins des Plantes. The ‘phygital’ event mixed a physical audience with virtual guests. Usher was digitally present as well as Jennifer Lopez, Cindy Crawford and Anna Wintour to mention a few who watched the show from the comfort of their homes while their faces were projected on big screens across the physically attending guests.
Olivier Rousteing presented one of his best collections to date by bringing back Balmain’s monogram. Shoulder pads and neon coloured ensembles were the panache and liveliness needed to exhilarate such a gloomy fashion week. The show opened with an old interview of Pierre Balmain speaking in English, talking about “l’élégance à la Française” and then The Weeknd’s hit ‘Blinded by the lights’ was blasted while the models were walking down the runway. With the dynamism of his collection and his optimism, merging pop culture, French savoir-faire, heritage and the beautifully eclectic casting, Rousteing powerfully illustrated what is (and should be) French élégance today: inclusive and a representation of the diverse society we live in.
This year, Paris Fashion Week emphasised like no other in the past the growing dissonance within the industry. Not only did it highlight a new generation of young designers and professionals ready to rework their companies’ ethos and business models to build a better future but, contrastingly, it also shed light on a more ‘old-fashioned’ part of the industry that, despite the effort it put into this season, is not completely ready to do the same introspective work.
Love it or hate it, at least this Fashion Week was refreshing. It felt like a step towards the start of building a more inclusive, sustainable and socially-conscious fashion industry. But this concerned the few physical shows we were lucky enough to attend. What about the brands that decided to go for digital presentations instead? I’ll have a look at this very shortly.