When Bottega Veneta deleted their Instagram (and all their other social media accounts) earlier this year in January, the fashion world was confused. Was this the most genius PR stunt of the internet age? They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but what about the 'pics or it didn't happen' mentality? By excusing himself from fashion's beehive, Daniel Lee was making a bold statement. Considering the cruciality of Instagram for self-promotion and clout-garnering, people acted as if Bottega's withdrawal from social media was an act of performance art - or suicide, depending on how you looked at it.
But Bottega had something else up their sleeve all along. Today, the house has launched Issue 01 of what they're calling a 'quarterly digital journal.' It's actually a website with 133 pages of new and archival brand imagery and videos, designed to act like a journal, but digital. Think of it as a deep dive into the Bottega moodboard, post-2018 (when Lee was first appointed to the house) - expect plenty of Tyrone Lebon's crisp, minimalistic imagery which has shaped the house's acclaimed aesthetic. In a skeuomorphic move, as you click from webpage to webpage, a swishing noise implies real life magazine pages being turned. So why did Lee stick to a digital format instead of a physical one?
'Social media represents the homogenisation of culture. Everyone sees the same stream of content. A huge amount of thought goes into what I do, and social media oversimplifies it,' Lee told the Guardian in an interview. As homogenised as social media may be, Bottega's digital journal does not quite escape that world - instead, it straddles the middle ground between print and digital. Jonathan Anderson on the other hand, has fully embraced the medium of print for both his JW Anderson and Loewe collections, with his 'show in a box' concept, or mock newspaper.
Successful or not, Lee's digital venture is a welcome refuge from the endless, vacuous Instagram feed. On entering the website, a clip from the house's The Importance of Wearing Clothes S/S 21 film by Lebon plays, as models weave through a smattering of socially distanced audience members in a set which morphs colours, recalling James Turrell's transcendent light installations. Then comes an image by Elaine Constantine of a giant, manicured hedge shaped to look like the house's signature wedge leather mules, backdropped by bunny rabbits and a charming countryside home.
Missy Elliott appears in more images by Lebon, iced out in rings, hoop earrings and a glittering pendant emblazoned with the word 'iconic.' In a later video, she lip syncs to 'Hot Boyz,' a song from her 1998 album Da Real World. Bizarrely, British parkour collective STORROR appear in a short film, hopping and somersaulting their way across precarious rooftops. Finally, South London writer, poet and filmmaker Caleb Femi waxes lyrical about clothing. 'They (clothes) respond to the state of your soul and reflect it out into the world,' he says. Bottega's quarterly digital journal is equally soulful, with its footage of quivering bag-shaped jelly sculptures and amorphous, shimmering chains. The house's means of refracting their brand out into the world are still digital for now, but we can wait.
Explore Issue 01 of the Bottega Veneta quarterly digital journal here.