Designer

Phoebe Philo to stay at Céline: a relief for all Philophiles

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Rumour had it that Phoebe Philo, considered to be one of the most talented and influential designers, had decided to leave Céline. After a report by The Fashion Law seemed to confirm the rumours at the beginning of the month, the fashion world was in turmoil. Is this the next fashion-house shake-up after Raf Simons’ announcement last year?

For the past eight years, the 43-year-old British designer’s understated creations for the French luxury and ready-to-wear brand have found many admirers. Her aesthetic has redefined the fashion zeitgeist and coolness has become the new epitome of chic.

So, here is the good news: Philo is not quitting her job as creative director! Even though neither Philo herself nor the brand have made official statements, an internal memo denied the claims that the designer would move on to another brand. Signed by Philo and CEO Marco Gobbetti, the memo made clear that they “are more motivated and committed than ever to [their] partnership and will continue to create beautiful products”.

The collaboration has brought global adoration to a brand that was almost defunct when Philo was appointed creative director in 2008. Whereas Philo had already substantially enhanced Chloé’s profile, her work at Céline has, according to the Business of Fashion, “redefined what women aspire to wear”.

After taking a three-year hiatus from the fashion world to focus on her family, the mother of three said in 2008 that she was excited “to step back into the studio and begin creating designs which will reinvigorate the brand [and] get customers excited about the product”. Since then, Philo’s designs for Céline have marked major fashion trends making the brand one of the most copied and talked-about.

Thanks to Philo, we’ve seen more and more wide pants, elastic ballet flats, boxy coats while Birkenstocks got to celebrate a comeback, and cult bags such as the Luggage Bag were born.

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The designer has reinvented coolness by bringing minimalism and realism back to fashion; clean lines and tonal colour palettes complement a new silhouette that mirrors a new femininity.Céline’s urban woman celebrates clean lines and colours, flats and experiments with curvy shapes, not to forget that she wears wide pants just as she wears tapered dresses and coats. The style is effortless and chic, and reminds us all that we can totally wear flat shoes.

Not only has Philo reinvigorated the French brand, which has moved its design studios from Paris to London so that the designer would be closer to her family, but she recreated a mood of the moment, making women feel comfortable yet fashionable and elegant.

“I felt it was time for a more back-to-reality approach to fashion, clothes that are beautiful, strong and have ideas, but with real life driving them”, Philo told British Vogue in 2010 about her vision for the label after her first SS collection.

And she did it: Philo has transformed that back-to-reality approach into an era that makes women look effortlessly cool. Flats, wider lines and everyday fabrics have replaced tight clothes and high heels. And even though Céline’s lines might seem to cover up the female form at times, they represent the realistic approach to how women feel, what they like to wear, and what makes them feel comfortable. It represents the wearer’s comfort zone; the comfort zone that Philo has found greatness in.

And who would be a perfect candidate to show off this new epitome of chic? Giving model Daria Webowy a break, Céline brought Joan Didion into the picture as the new poster girl; a person that embodies what Philo embraces: coolness. It also demonstrated how age band is not a topic here; it’s character.

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But Philo didn’t only reinvent coolness; she has also designed cult items that have boosted sales and made the brand one of the first addresses for luxury leather goods. Loved by many, their names are Luggage bag, Box Clutch, Trapeze and Cabas among others. The leather handbags, whether looking like a trapezoid or big enough to take on a weekend trip, have become true It Bags and have been copied by brands ranging from Zara to Forever 21.

Besides immensely increasing the success of Céline – her achievements allegedly resulted in a double-digit growth for the company – Philo is known as a family-first person. Whilst working for Chloé, she was one of the first high-profile designers to take maternity leave and was able to uproot Céline’s design studios from Paris to London to be closer to her family. Using her three-year break to be with her family, including husband Max Wigman, a gallery owner, and three children she is not only a back-to-reality designer but a down-to-earth person who puts family first.

Considering that she resigned from Chloé at the height of her success with the brand, another break from the fashion world would not have been too much of a surprise.

Nonetheless, following the designer exits from last year, this would have been the next shocker. For now, though, all Philophiles out there can rest assured that she will keep creating beautiful products and will hopefully not stop bringing real life back to fashion, addressing women whose lives extend way beyond red carpets.

 

Words by Ann-Christin Schubert

Pictures from Céline, via The Fashion Law, and Vogue

Our deputy ed Lucy was editor until 2016. With expertise in beauty, men's and women's fashion, she has bylines at GLAMOUR, The Independent and The Idle Man.

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