The other day, I was reading a dusty old business book about mindsets and attitudes that lead to capitol-I innovation – the kind of progress that feels something more than incremental. The idea went as follows: those who innovate choose to observe at the paradigm everyone else abides by and then consciously do something different.
At a time when brands from Paris to Milan are trying to reimagine how a fashion presentation looks in the COVID era, Daniel Lee's Bottega Veneta opted to present not a collection, but a rumination. Their film, titled with Lee’s quintessential minimalist touch (Bottega Veneta: Men) put clothing in the distant background, instead gathering together a collection of men and women to reflect on identity, masculinity and their relationship with clothing. Shot by Tyrone Lebon, Lee’s go-to eye, the film asks a simple question, eliciting diverse responses: “In your eyes, what qualities make a man?” There’s minimal celebrity presence, there are no “show notes” detailing the clothing worn, nor any season this presentation is intended to be attached to.
The execution reflects a time where “seasons” “collections” and tangible “product” feel less relevant than ever. It’s an era that feels much more closely related to discourse, to identity, to vulnerability and intimacy. BV showed a deft understanding of the latter by (in their own way) forcing said intimacy: the film was delivered to my door pre-loaded on a small projector. After receiving, there was nothing to do but wait for nightfall, find a blank wall in my apartment, dim the lights, and take it in silently.
Yes, it doesn’t take a cynic to point out that this is, in every sense, a marketing piece. Yes, your eyes are still gently guided to Lee’s now-familiar design motifs like stompy boots, triangular winks and the minimalist/maximalist, grain-infused aesthetic of Lebon. But even with all that, it’s hard to deny that this was a “digital fashion week” creation that leaves the viewer with a feeling that few other brands could claim to have achieved: reflection.