Retail praise. Street-style cred. A burgeoning fan base. The sold-out Bottega Veneta mesh pump, crafted by designer of the moment Daniel Lee, is the “It” shoe that will keep gaining traction during fashion month.
The journey started in July 2018 with the appointment of Celine alumnus Lee as Bottega’s new creative director. The mesh pump first appeared as part of pre-fall ’19, his first collection; the first images of the shoe were released in December. After arriving in stores in May, the shoe had the summer to gain momentum. And during New York Fashion Week, scores of editors and influencers made a statement in it — along with the label’s knotted square-toe sandals, which were more appropriate for the hot summer temperatures of New York.
Retailers are betting that the pump will dominate as the fall chill arrives.
“We have been seeing this shoe everywhere, and it is on everyone right now, from the incredible campaign shot by Tyrone Lebon to a whole host of celebrities and influencers. Instagram has been awash with images of what we are dubbing Bottega’s biggest hit,” said Browns Fashion non-apparel buying manager Holly Harding. “It’s definitely the shoe of the season and Daniel Lee’s Bottega Veneta is no doubt the brand of the season.”
Lee’s designs for the house spawned their own Instagram fan account, @NewBottega. Launched in February, the account now has a following of some 77,000 fans. With the designer’s second runway outing set for Milan on Sept. 19, the fervor is only going to build.
But what is it about this shoe in particular that has captured the zeitgeist? The general consensus among buyers and influencers alike is that it’s the winning combination of the style’s square-toe silhouette, the ankletlike chain embellishment and the mesh fabrication, which is an update on Bottega’s signature “intrecciato” weave using thin leather strips forming a plain or basket weave placed at a 45-degree angle. It’s all that and a sprinkling of “old Celine” magic.
“We’ve seen mesh as a trend trickling through on a few brands but rarely in an all-over style,” says Harding. “This is an easy way to make a really visual statement which is identifiably Bottega.” According to @NewBottega founder, Polimoda fashion student Laura Rossi, the look definitely adds something to every woman’s wardrobe: the square toe feels retro while the mesh adds that modern touch.”
Entrepreneur and influencer Belma Gaudio, founder of hip London concept store Koibird, dubbed the pump her go-to front-row shoe. “It feels fresh and satisfies our Celine nostalgia,” she said.
It was, after all, Lee’s former employer and the @oldceline tribute account that inspired Rossi to start @NewBottega, she said. “It just felt like the right moment to celebrate a new era in fashion, something from this generation that could be considered iconic and hopefully remembered as such by the future ones, too,” she said.
“We are all familiar with fashion’s game of musical chairs, but the moment people start referring to a brand as ‘New Bottega’ instead of Bottega Veneta, it means that something seriously interesting is going on,” Rossi said.
Similarly Cassie Smart, head of womenswear at Matches Fashion, said: “We felt the design was very original and we were instantly excited,” she said. “The use of the mesh, square toe and chain had a real modernity to it.” And while nobody is calling time on the fashion flat, Smart said it was “nice to see a heel feel right again next to RTW.”
Elizabeth von der Goltz, global buying director at Net-a-Porter, added that the square toe is “an elevated option to add a little extra sharpness to your on- and off-duty look.”
“It’s the barely there trend, minimal aesthetic with maximal impact,” noted Tiffany Hsu, fashion buying director at MyTheresa. “The anklet-style jewelry detail is icing on the cake.”
However, she concluded that many “old Celine” fans had been eagerly anticipating Lee’s first collection, and “it was really no big surprise for us, though, I still don’t think anyone anticipated the impact of influencers and social media.”
In many cases, the shoe didn’t even make it onto shelves, whether physical or digital.
“The first delivery was sold out in seconds, all via our in-store ambassadors,” said Harding. “Not one made it online.”
The same happened at MyTheresa, with the site’s personal shoppers reserving the styles for their best clients. A sales agent at the house’s Avenue Montaigne flagship in Paris said he never actually saw them hit the sales floor.
“It’s the fastest-selling style so far this season,” added Harding, revealing that there’s an “extra-long” wait list for the reorder.
However, the phenomenon goes beyond the shoe itself. Call it the Gucci effect. “Fashion was hungry for a shake-up, and much like Alessandro Michele at Gucci, the idea of a relatively unknown name stepping in to take the reins of a heritage luxury house is exciting,” said Harding. “That is fueling the hype as well.”
Moreover, Kering, the brands’ parent company, has been at the center of “It” shoes from the last couple of years: Michele’s Gucci mule, the Saint Laurent crystal slouch boot and the Balenciaga Triple-S sneaker. All are Kering-owned.
“Bottega has a lot of room to grow in terms of product offering and a staple business,” concludes Hsu.
And the mesh pump is likely to be more than a seasonal affair. Well placed sources inform us that the shoe is now set to become part of the permanent collection.
All eyes will be on Lee and the house in Milan next week.