What do hot luxury house Bottega Veneta, rising designer Sara Battaglia and sustainability phenom Rothy’s have in common? It might not be obvious right away, but all three understand that winning strategies for 2020 look a lot different than they did a decade ago.
At Bottega, Daniel Lee and his team seem to be cooking up a recipe that has all the right ingredients. The brand is dominating street style this fashion month, with influencers, editors and retailers all proudly wearing the company’s square-toe knot sandals and mesh pumps on the street and in every front row. Ahead of its show, Bottega also plastered ads on billboards and trolley buses across Milan; you literally couldn’t go a few blocks without seeing the minimalist styles.
There’s no question the buzz is there. More important, though, so is the business, according to top retailers.
“Bottega Veneta was the show of Milan Fashion Week and probably of the season,” said Alberto Oliveros, GMM at Kurt Geiger, who is responsible for buying across men’s, women’s and children’s shoes for Harrods. “Daniel Lee’s collection was fresh, cool and modern but stunning and commercial at the same time. We are already having an amazing success with his first collection, and spring ’20 will be a good season for Bottega shoes at Harrods. Their mules will be definitely a season must-have.”
What’s most notable for some insiders is that Lee is forging ahead, and fast. While some fashion followers are just now embracing the square-toe trend — something the designer was at the forefront of — Lee introduced a new rounded-toe shape at Bottega for spring ’20, in addition to the twisted double-strap Lido mule and an asymmetrical take on the stretch-mesh pump, fall’s “It” shoe.
“If he keeps moving the silhouettes on, while still maintaining that timeless luxury look that he has mastered, then Bottega Veneta is here to stay,” said Ida Petersson, buying director at Browns Fashion.
Another name that continues to generate huge conversation is the sustainably focused Rothy’s, one of the fastest growing labels in the U.S. market. The company chose Milan Fashion Week to unveil its second collaboration, an eco-friendly wool capsule collection with Italian designer Marta Ferri.
Fashion has become oversaturated with collaborations. Especially at this time of year, brands seems to lean on the likely partners — models of the moment, young celebrities or influencers with millions of followers.
But that doesn’t seem the direction Rothy’s is going in — at least for now. The label, which makes its shoes from recycled plastic water bottles, understands that its biggest strength lies in its sustainability story, which has resonated with consumers, including the all-important millennial and Generation Z crowds. Ferri said she, too, gravitates toward projects that focus on the process as much as the end product.
For the collaboration, which marks one of Rothy’s first major moves outside the American market, the pair worked with Italian mill Tollegno 1900, a textile leader known for its sustainable practices, craftsmanship and fine high-quality wool. “They are not a company that has only recently embraced sustainability. They have been doing it for 30 to 40 years,” said Rothy’s co-founder Roth Martin.
At a time when sustainability is just a buzzword for many companies, Rothy’s — like its Bay Area neighbor Allbirds — is establishing itself as a true leader in the space.
Sustainability was a focus for many players in Milan this season, with Onward Luxury Group’s new F_WD streetwear brand also making a splash with a fashion week pop-up. The shoes, mostly sneakers, are vegan, constructed with recycled or recyclable materials, and they are about 2% biodegradable. The collection, designed by Raphael Young, an Off-White alum, is already stocked at Selfridge’s and 24S, among others.
In addition to F_WD, there were several other notable newcomers on the Milan Fashion Week shoe scene, which is still dominated by mega brands like Gianvito Rossi, Jimmy Choo and Giuseppe Zanotti.
The strongest spring ’20 debut so far? Sara Battaglia’s whimsical new collection, unveiled at her presentation Saturday. The designer, who first made a name for herself with bags and later launched ready-to-wear, debuted 13 shoe styles. Average price points are around 500 euros ($550).
Unlike many young designers — who are determined to have sky-high prices right out of the gate — Battaglia is smart to price her collection below luxury levels. The designer has also already established strong retail relationships with Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Net-a-Porter and Printemps, among others, giving her a natural advantage at a challenging time.
“I believe in healthy, sustained growth, especially in fashion, where things tend to move so fast. Each element has to come into being at just the right time. Bags were my first love, and following on from there, I decided to step into ready-to-wear. Now, with the arrival of my shoe collection, I feel I am moving closer to completing [my vision],” she said.
Kurt Geiger’s Oliveros said Battaglia’s first collection was “playful and fun. … She’s another name to watch,” he commented.
In the end, what do Battaglia, Bottega and Rothy’s really have in common? They’re all modern brands with innovative, attention-grabbing strategies. And all three are poised to make big statements in the shoe market in 2020 and beyond.