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Phoebe Philo / The End of an Era

News 07.08.18

Words Simone Konu Rae Screen Prints Cassie Rhodes

Now for fashion insiders, you will all know that Phoebe Philo who was creative director of Celine for the past 10 years has left the brand, which has bought a tear to many women who believe that Phoebe’s work came to redefine femininity for our times. For those of you who don’t know who Phoebe Philo is, then you will have undoubtedly felt her impact and influence on fashion. Go into any high street store and you will find a Celine inspired item of clothing, weather thats the iconic ball heel bootie from her Spring Summer 2014 shows, oversized tailoring, or a homage to any of the Celine bags;  I’ve lost count of how many times I have encountered one of these. 

Philo has also been responsible for starting a few trends in her day; our love of camel coats, Stan Smiths, norm-core, minimalism, mens shirts, even a Birkenstock revival. In this industry, that is constantly evolving and moving forward, it is important to look back, reflect and try to digest the impact the Phoebe Philo has had on fashion, and of course femininity.

Philo had studied at Central St Martins, meeting Stella McCartney, and worked as Stella’s first assistant at Chloe.  Later she became Creative Director of the brand, part of a trilogy of young female Creative Directors, including Hannah Gibbons who have all contributed to a refined view of womenswear we see today.  Taking two year maternity leave, for which Philo was criticised for, she responded in an interview in Vogue  “I don’t have anything to be ashamed about. I had a baby! I mean, what do people expect?” In 2008 she began working at Celine, setting up a studio in London from which should could maintain work life balance, and spend time with her children and husband.  And from the first collection something almost magical happened…Philo’s clean, subtle and discreet take on womanhood began to spread like wildfire.  A brand without a clear heritage was like a blank canvas from which to experiment and create wardrobe for the modern woman. 

At a time where the majority of male creative directors of fashion houses were telling women how to be sexy, Philo was able to speak to women as women.  So sexy was out, mens trousers, roll neck jumpers and trainers were in.  The subtle subversive silhouettes, which effortless blend very masculine with feminine allowed women to embrace a new side to themselves.  A complicated mix of tailoring, draping, pleating, leatherwork, created a tension within womenswear that had not previously been available. And what is more, a range of women could wear her clothes, speaking to the over 30 customer that is usually ignored by most brands as they tirelessly chase after youth.  Philo’s take on womenswear, and the Celine Woman allowed for the real complexities of dressing the female form, where pragmatism and style exist in harmony.  Partnering with Juergen Teller and Tyrone Lebon, Celine’s campaign imagery showed women that you can be beautiful at any age, enlisting models such as Binx Walton, Daria Werbowy, and Joan Didot, who was 81 at the time of the campaign shoot.  The campaigns were raw and above all honest.  Other brands are still catching up with this way of thinking.

There is also a certain level of respect that you have to have for Phoebe’s approach to digitalisation and over exposure of herself and her collections.  She has actively chosen to stay out of of the sport light, refusing to give interviews, some would even call her a recluse.  But this only added to the brands allure over time.  Why talk to everyone if you don’t have to? Celine only launched their Instagram account in Feb 2017, and since have amassed a colossal 1.3 million followers. The online store was launched in the UK in March 2018, so if you were a fan you had to go to a Celine store, an experience in and of itself, for any self confessed Philo-phile.  This could be a response to fast fashion, and our access to clothing; I can order an item of fashion in the morning and have it delivered to my door by that very evening, and whilst that can be extremely useful in those ‘I don’t have anything to wear situations’ (realistically you probably do), it somewhat diminishes the shopping experience, and the value of clothing as a whole. “The chicest thing is when you don’t exist on Google” Philo is famously known to have said in an interview with Vogue.  And to a certain extent I agree. There was a mystique that surrounded Celine and Phoebe, which was intriguing as a customer. The philosophy behind her clothes themselves is that they should be built to last, they are pieces that we should invest in, buy once and treasure for a lifetime, not a quick fix to wear for a season.  Well, with those price points Celine has never been a democratic or easily accessible brand, a camel coat retailed for £2,442.  The high street stepped in to provide Celine-esque pieces at a fraction of the price understanding that this was something women wanted to buy into.

And its not purely recognition from the Celine customer that has given Phoebe Philo cult status.  In her time at the brand she was named British designer of the year in 2010 by the British Fashion Council, International designer by the CFDA in 2011, and Time Magazine named Philo as one of the hundred most influential people in the world in 2014.  Did I mention she also has an OBE. 

So whilst fashion marches on relentlessly as it always does, the forthcoming shows in Autumn will reveal what the new creative director has in store for the brand.  Change is inevitable.  But we at ALSO will be eagerly awaiting Phoebe’s return…perhaps her own line at last? Or maybe a well deserved rest? In the meantime let the shopping frenzies ensue as every last bit of her collections are fought over by likeminded women all across the world.  Ready, steady….shop!

Words Simone Konu Rae Screen Prints Cassie Rhodes
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