When Italian luxury brand Bottega Veneta announced their new creative director last June, fashion insiders were quietly excited. True, no one knew that much about Daniel Lee, a low-key 32-year-old from the less-than-glamorous UK city of Bradford. But what did pique their interest was his fashion pedigree.
After graduating from Central St Martins in London, Lee worked at Maison Margiela and Balenciaga before ending up at Celine, where he was the head of ready-to-wear under the revered Phoebe Philo. Still mourning ‘old Celine’, fans of the label hoped he’d revive some of the cool-girl luxury they’d been missing since Philo’s departure.
They weren’t disappointed, exactly. There were flashes of Celine in a tailored cream coat and easy monochrome dress in Lee’s debut show last February. There was also an altogether less Celine-like emphasis on statement leather (to be fair, that’s what Bottega Veneta is famous for). But Lee’s shoes… they were what really caught the imagination.
Models wore padded leather and strappy sandals, and mules covered with a distinctive black mesh. They all had a wide square toe, the like of which no one had seen, really, since the ’90s.
In the last few months, these shoes have pretty much colonised Instagram. “They’re a total fashion shoe,” says our shopping editor, Tara Morris. Model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and UK influencer Hannah Strafford-Taylor are fans, along with countless others. In fact, this footwear – and Bottega Veneta’s almost-as-popular pouch bags – now has its own account at @newbottega.
Unsurprisingly, the sandals are pretty tricky to track down, despite the $1000-plus price tag. New drops are expected at MyTheresa, for example, in time for fashion month in the northern hemisphere (New York Fashion Week started yesterday). There’s a wait list at Net-A-Porter.
Fortunately, other brands have been quick to interpret the square-toed look, as you’ll see below. Yes, we’ve included a Gucci and Balenciaga shoe, but the Topshop heels are also lovely at a tenth of the price.
Square toes can be difficult to wear, but thin straps are more flattering on the foot, says Tara. “They’re very versatile shoes,” she adds. “You can wear them dressed up, with a jean or with a flowing split skirt for summer.” Almost all are open-toed, apart from Balenciaga’s Edwardian slip-on, which means – sorry to say – it’s now time to think about a post-winter pedicure.