On Tuesday morning, the world woke to a slightly smaller social media universe: Bottega Veneta, one of the world’s largest fashion brands, deleted its Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts overnight. “Sorry, this page is down,” reads the @BottegaVeneta URL, which the brand had over 2.5 million followers.
Bottega didn’t return a request for comment, but a tweet from fashion publication A Magazine Curated By suggested this was intentional and not a social media intern’s worst nightmare. “What’s missing from 2021? @BottegaVeneta is “, it says in the tweet (since deleted). The brand’s creative director, Daniel Lee, unveiled the brand’s spring 2021 collection a few weeks ago with a private, socially distant tour of London, Lee’s home base. (The brand itself is based in Italy and has mainly been shown in Milan since Lee took the reins in October 2019.)
At the beginning of a new year, when many people decide to spend less time online, avoid alcohol or other vices, exercise more, or improve their lives in general, what is so shocking about a fashion brand going dark? A lot, it turns out. Brands, as much as they hate to admit it, are not people – and in these unprecedented times they rely more than ever on social media to promote and distribute their new collections, ad campaigns, and other marketing initiatives. Almost every fashion brand, from Chanel and Balenciaga to Evan Kinori and Ziggy Chen, has an online presence. (Even the handyman Paul Harnden has an Instagram account!) In fact, most of them have expanded their reach to platforms like TikTok, YouTube and even Cash App in recent years. Others have found a new sense of creative expression by continuing to debut their collections on social media. With the pandemic showing little sign of easing, the seemingly unique format has become a new indispensable medium.
And Bottega Veneta in particular has made impressive use of social media in the 15 months since Lee joined the house. The giant boots, bubbly intrecciato bags and sandals, and oversized leather ready-to-wear clothing make intuitive visual sense on an iPhone screen, and the brand’s marketing plan anticipated (or maybe accelerated!) The merging of fashion insiders and straight people. -up influencer – Marc Goehring, fashion designer of 032c, and Tiffany Hsu, fashion director of MyTheresa, were some of the first “celebrities” to be seen in Lee’s designs, but so were the Olsen twins. A fan account is only used to track the visual output of the brand. While Lee – a protégé of the ultra-private Phoebe Philo – does not have a personal account, he posed shirtless for Jürgen Teller in the September issue of Cultured Magazine, suggesting a certain lightness in our brave new age of public portraiture. (In the fashion industry, the Bottega question has become a topic of great debate: It was a culture shock to see the creators of one-per-center clothing without a logo make parts like the monster stomper puddle boots that are the loudest most must-have rain boots in history.)
The idea of a billion dollar brand existing without social media is excitingly original. Perhaps the Bottega deletion is the ultimate act of stealth luxury – it will now be a brand that is purely oral. If just a brand’s fans post about it, it might move like a secret across the industry, with it items popping up organically (imagine that!) Based on consumer tastes, rather than shining like a mandate from the brand Corporate account.
Bottega Veneta’s Careers sub-site offers one final clue. Over a month ago, the brand posted an entry for a global social media manager. Is this a digital purge in preparation for a new regime? Or will the hot new social media strategy of 2021 go completely offline? Whatever the answer, you probably won’t find it on Instagram.