Phoebe Philo at Céline: The Highlights
On the day of writing this piece, it's been announced that Hedi Slimane will take over as creative director of Céline. While we'll have to wait and see how much of Slimane's hallmark I'm-with-the-band aesthetic will slip into his vision at Céline, one thing is certain: the guy's got big shoes to fill.
Last December, we learnt that Phoebe Philo was leaving Céline after 10 years. It wasn't surprising to hear; rumors of Philo's departure had been sprouting throughout 2017, and in today's fashion climate designers play musical chairs every season, so to hold the same position for so long makes you a bit of an anomaly. Still, the news shook plenty of people up because, to put it simply, over the course of a decade, Philo has changed the way women dress.
Before Philo's second show for Céline (spring 2010, wherein she managed to make dresses that were sack-like, both in shape and colour, look desirable), she said of her plans for the Parisian label: "I just thought I'd clean it up. Make it strong and powerful – a kind of contemporary minimalism." This strand of contemporary minimalism catapulted the designer to the top of the fashion food chain, garnering respect not only from Céline customers but from the general public, too, as we all keenly snapped up Zara's iteration of Philo's crombie coats, glove shoes, winged tote bags and more.
Here are some of Philo's greatest hits at Céline.
Philo's stripped-back Céline debut was a huge departure from Ivana Omazic's final collection for the house, which was rich in princess-like dresses in vibrant colours. The new Céline woman was all about colour-blocking (mostly with neutrals, natch), cape coats and straight silhouettes – no frills, no flounce. "The collection is about interchangeable investment pieces. I worked hard to create things that will stand the test of time," Philo told US Vogue.
After a solid streak of plain-colour designs that prioritised silhouettes over snazz, Philo brought some prints into her SS11 collection. Obviously, they were done in good taste, rendered in silk and inspired by vintage foulards. The ad campaign that followed was a killer, and the prints were so well-received that they were recast in Céline's Resort '13 collection.
We first encountered Philo's take on the classic Crombie coat in her Resort 2010 collection, presented in her favourite camel tone. But for AW11 the coat came pumped up in vibrant orange as an unexpectedly maximalist take on a classic. Because this was Céline, though, the bright colour pops were knocked down with turtlenecks and straight-cut trousers.
Another departure from minimalism! And this time, Philo did it with blooming florals. This remains one of the brand's most commercial line-ups under Phoebe Philo's direction. More good things came out of this collection besides the flowery prints: the Céline logo T-shirt that every teenage girl bought a knock-off version of, and one of Alexa Chung's best outfits.
Phoebe Philo had a thing for Brutalist architecture way before that pretentious guy you met on Bumble did. For AW12, the year of the London Olympics, Philo drew inspiration from Trellick Tower, which manifested in an array of boxy, colour-blocked coats. Some punky references slipped through, too, with oversized zip fastenings popping up all over the designer's hallmark skinny-straight trousers, running down the calves and slashed across the knees.
The fact that she designs beautiful, sophisticated clothes makes Philo's penchant for ugly footwear even more jarring. You look over the expertly crafted cape coat, the flowing dress... and then your eyes go down to the shoes. Céline shoes have always been weird, but they arguably peaked for spring/summer 13, as Philo sent "furkenstocks" and mink-covered stilettos down the catwalk.
Under Philo's reign, Céline quickly morphed into the type of brand that caters to intellectual, proper grown-up women who don't wear bodycon or touch anything that falls into the broad category of 'streetwear' (OK, anything other than Stan Smiths). It made sense, then, to bring Joan Didion on board to front the brand's SS15 campaign. To further celebrate the writer, Daria Werbowy posed for a separate shot that recreated Tyron Lebon's iconic shot of Didion hanging out of a white Corvette.
Boxy coats, striped jumpers, clean-cut bags, draped tops, slip dresses with unexpected flounced hems, woven fishtail skirts. Although it was only a resort collection, this one had it all. I adored it all when it first came out, so much so that wrote a blog post about it on my very cringey old blog, Bonjour Grace!
The set for the spring/summer '18 Céline show was a giant bubble structure. Was it meant to make a statement about Philo living in her own design bubble, refusing to tap into the faddy trends that she instinctively knows won't ever appeal to her target consumer? Nobody knows for sure, but it certainly looked that way. This was like a rundown of Philo's greatest hits – think beige outerwear, utilitarian tailoring, slouchy blazers and asymmetric midi skirts – all topped off with some characteristically ugly shoes. Oh how she'll be missed.