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Burberry Names Daniel Lee as Its Chief Creative Officer

Daniel Lee, then the creative director of Bottega Veneta, in Milan, Feb. 1, 2020. (Alessandro Grassani/The New York Times)
Daniel Lee, then the creative director of Bottega Veneta, in Milan, Feb. 1, 2020. (Alessandro Grassani/The New York Times)

Burberry has named Daniel Lee as its new chief creative officer. Following months of speculation, the news came less than 48 hours after a runway show from Italian designer Riccardo Tisci — a collection that proved to be his swan song with the British luxury house.

The appointment, announced Wednesday, marks the return of a British designer to the top of Britain’s largest luxury brand by sales. The company reported 2.8 billion pounds (now, $3 billion) in revenue for the year ended April 2. It is also the most dramatic change to the house under its new CEO, Jonathan Akeroyd.

Lee, 36, was most recently creative director of Bottega Veneta from 2018 until 2021, when his abrupt departure from the Italian label that he had transformed into a hit machine shocked the fashion world, raising eyebrows. His appointment at Burberry comes six months after the arrival of Akeroyd, as Burberry looks to reposition itself following the muted success under Tisci and its former CEO Marco Gobbetti (a fellow Italian).

Lee, who was born in Bradford in the north of England, will join Burberry on Monday and oversee all Burberry collections, according to a statement from the brand. He is to present his debut runway collection for Burberry during London Fashion Week in February.

“Daniel is an exceptional talent with a unique understanding of today’s luxury consumer and a strong record of commercial success,” Akeroyd said in the statement, “and his appointment reinforces the ambitions we have for Burberry.”

Lee, who also has worked at Maison Margiela, Balenciaga, Donna Karan and Celine, went from relative unknown to industry superstar in less than three years at Bottega Veneta, garnering critical acclaim and industry awards. He sent sales soaring thanks to his slick shoe and handbag designs, including a leather pouch and square-toe woven pump. But despite his talent for drumming up commercial success, behind the scenes speculation bubbled continually about his work practices. There was high staff turnover, and when he left the Italian label in November, no reason was given.

Tisci, who succeeded Christopher Bailey, is departing Burberry after almost five years, a period in which he sought to modernize its offerings and logo as well as to attract younger, more diverse customers. However, soaring prices and slick but soulless designs meant that Burberry never quite reached the heights hoped for by fans and investors alike — or that Tisci was able to create at his previous job at Givenchy. Burberry also had lost the link to its British heritage that had set it apart from every other major luxury brand.

His spring collection, which was supposed to be shown during London Fashion Week, was postponed after the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Instead, the event took place Monday — prompting much of the fashion industry to return from shows in Milan and Paris for a presentation that had a decidedly mournful air.

Akeroyd, previously CEO of Versace and Alexander McQueen, has been vocal since his arrival earlier this year about his desire for greater emphasis on Burberry’s Britishness. And Lee is considered one of the biggest British design talents in the world.

Luca Solca, a luxury analyst at the research firm Sanford C. Bernstein, noted that Lee “has demonstrated the ability to create a highly successful new chapter for Bottega Veneta — particularly with shoes and handbags — and so far Burberry has struggled to make its make in these categories and create high profile iconic products.”

On Wednesday, Lee said in Burberry’s statement that he was very excited to be returning to London.

“It is a city that champions pioneering creativity and that continues to inspire me,” he said. “Together with the team, we will write the exciting next chapter for this legendary British luxury brand.” — NYT

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