Why Phoebe Philo’s return to fashion means so much to industry insiders
Written by Billie Bhatia
As Phoebe Philo announces her return to the industry, we remember why this is an iconic moment for fashion insiders.
While most of England woke up to sore heads and a deflated feeling of collective devastation post Sunday’s Euro final, the fashion industry was positively jubilant. After a four-year hiatus, it was announced that industry insiders’ darling Phoebe Philo is making her return to fashion. Having endured a feeling of bereft abandonment (this is no exaggeration, I felt it too), Philo is launching an eponymous label with a minority stake under LVMH.
Since leaving us after her tenure of Céline, (ah the ’é’ greatness), there has been a perfect slouchy trouser filled hole in our hearts. Phoebe Philo wasn’t just a quietly confident designer who transformed a French house into a Paris Fashion Week beacon, she also became the fearless leader to Philophiles, the name for the sisterhood of women who have been solemnly gazing at their mannish shirt and oversized navy rollnecks since 2017.
Philo’s genius came in her ability to predict what women want and how they want it without them even knowing. So desirable did Philo make Céline that she even swayed the formidable Joan Didion (80-years-old at the time) to star in her 2015 campaign.
Phoebe Philo wears her trademark Stan Smith for a Céline finale.
The ugly shoes you have been coveting since 2014, that’s Philo. Her glove-like gold courts now heralded as an iconic moment on #oldceline (oh yeah, part of the bereavement process saw a fan account dedicated to Philo’s greatest hits pop up which now sports 378k followers) paired with 2014’s shearling slides that are the reason why Birkenstock can’t hold enough stock of their own shearling style, are just the tip of Philo’s accessories mountain.
Only Philo could work a blanket into a wardrobe essential.
The bags, oh the bags. Timeless, revered, considered, purposeful and subtle in an excruciatingly loud way that said, “I KNOW YOU KNOW THIS IS CÉLINE AND THAT’S EXACTLY WHY I BOUGHT IT.” Cult is an overused term in fashion, but not when it comes to Philo’s bags. They embodied everything that cult should be and so much more, which is why even under Hedi Slimane’s reign of Celine (au revoir é), a version of them still exists.
Easy silk slip dresses trimmed with contrasting lace, abstract printed shirts, dresses shrobed in a built-in cape, tailoring like no one had ever tailored before. The joy in Philo’s creations were that they were presented as challenging enough to be considered fashion (pronounced, fash-hun) while being easy enough to actually wear beyond an industry setting.
One of Céline’s most iconic bags.
We might have gulped at the price, but Philo made us dress in a way that we had always wanted to but never known how. And when she left, we were lost. Slimane’s new vision for the brand didn’t serve us in the way Philo did. How could we go from a hair-tucked roll neck and box fresh Adidas Stan Smith’s, the designer’s talisman, to skeletal models in puffed-out prom dresses and grungy leathers?
Well, in short we didn’t. We pined endlessly for her return. At the faintest whiff of fashion musical chairs we dared whisper it, “Phoebe?!” And while there have been brands to serve our appetite in the meantime: Jonathan Anderson’s Loewe and Daniel Lee’s Bottega Veneta (a graduate of Philo’s school of style), these are men determining what women want, whereas the most tangible part of Philo’s talent is that she is a woman that knows precisely what women want. And she served it by the bucket load.
It’s good to have you back Phoebe, we really bloody missed you.