The announcement of Phoebe Philo's comeback to the profession has the fashion world in a frenzy. After a three-year hiatus, the previous creative director at Céline is finally plotting her return into the world of fashion.
Philo’s departure from the fashion industry in late 2017 had fans and critics alike theorising what was next for the designer, and the internet has met her return with the highest enthusiasm. Especially since the pandemic, there have been huge changes in fashion with the increased values of sustainability and the usage of technology to assist in providing a new experience for audiences and seemingly unlimited creativity. It’s exciting to see what the iconic British designer has in store for her comeback in September of this year.
Her impact in the fashion industry can hardly be overstated, having been first assistant to Stella McCartney and then succeeding her as creative director of Chloé, from 2001-2006. Telling The Guardian in 2009 that it was during this time she considered her line but felt “the time wasn’t right.” After leaving Chloé, LVMH offered her the creative director position at Céline, which she took on from 2008-2018.
Philo’s time at Céline remains amongst some of the most influential for the fashion house and most impactful for the fashion world at large, with numerous copycats and vocabulary directly linked with her wide-spread supremacy including ‘Céline-ification,’ a term coined by fashion editor Lynn Yaeger who first used the word to describe the overriding influence of the brand at Paris fashion week in 2010.
For Philo, the importance of her 2009 Céline debut was focused on creating things that stood the test of time. Claiming “It felt better for me to work on an idea of a wardrobe than too much trend.” Looking back, this remains true. When we see the designs of pillowy bags, large totes, and wide-legged trousers paired with trainers, and how they have been reworked and redesigned by both high-street and high-end brands from Boohoo to Bottega, you only have Philo to thank. As fashion YouTuber and commenter Luke Meagher (@hautelemode) puts it, "She very much created the defining aesthetic of the 2010s.”
During her tenure at Céline, she created a distinctive aesthetic that was both understated and elegant. Her creations were distinguished by simple shapes, subdued hues, and an emphasis on flawless tailoring. Philo was renowned for her attention to detail and her capacity to design stylish yet functional clothing, and her work was synonymous with the interpretation of the female gaze. Some of her most memorable looks include revamping the slip dress as an everyday look not limited to the bedroom, the pyjama shirt, notably worn by Kayne during his Coachella performance in 2011, and the wide-leg pants. Philo’s accessories saw just as much praise and admiration, both at Chloé and Céline. From the iconic Chloé Paddington, dubbed as “the most wanted accessory in the history of the fashion business” by The Telegraph, to the Céline Luggage Tote that had every fashion blogger in a chokehold in the 2010s/ This was seen frequently on the arms of numerous celebrities including Kim Kardashian and the Olsen Twins, yet still manages to garner huge success even a decade later. It will be interesting to see how she establishes herself in a post-pandemic world that has seen huge changes because of social media and technology, affecting both marketing and customer experience. With the recent resurgence of 2010’s 2010-inspired fashion, there is no doubt the designer will shine and rebrand herself in a space that allows for her evolution with fashion.
Not only has she proved herself to be a voice of a generation, but a great mentor too, having spawned high talent under her watchful eye. Daniel Lee, creative director at Bottega Veneta, and other designers including Peter Do, Rok Hwang, and Ilaria Iccardi all worked with Philo at Céline. The designer's time at Céline has received nothing but critical acclaim, with New York Times fashion critic Vanessa Friedman stating Philo “made Celine matter in a way it never had before.”
Amidst all the commentary and praise before her departure, fashion critic at Vogue Sarah Mower aptly wrote “A proven genius for tuning into the intuitions of a generation—she’s acted as a lightning conductor of the female energy of the times, twice over.” This feeling appears mutual, and the long relationship with LVMH remains strong, as the world's largest luxury goods conglomerate, behind the likes of Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, and Tiffany & Co., has taken a minor stake in the designer's newest venture. Chairman Bernard Arnault declared the designer “one of the most talented designers of our time.”
As Philo returns to the fashion world, there is much speculation about what she will do next. Back in May 2021, the designer publicly announced that she would be launching her fashion brand. The then 47-year-old claimed that she was beyond excited “...to be independent, to govern and experiment on my terms is hugely significant to me.” Recently more details have been confirmed, with a new Instagram account for the brand open and a statement reading “Our inaugural collection will be revealed and available on our website, phoebephilo.com, in September 2023.” With a whopping 254k followers on the empty Instagram account already, it’s clear the world is ready and patiently waiting for her return. Celebrity stylist Karla Welch encapsulated the sentiment. “For Phoebe fans, I think in one moment, no other brand mattered. That’s her power. We already know we want it all.” I can confirm, she isn’t wrong!
Edited by Barney Nuttall, Deputy Editor-in-Chief