By Giulia Piceni. Cover image by Margaret Mitchem for I’M Firenze Digest.
My more than peaceful Summer was interrupted by some unexpected news that started circulating on Instagram. A simple link was shared that invited people to subscribe to a site, and in an instant, all the rumours of the past three years were confirmed: Phoebe Philo is returning to fashion with her eponymous new brand. The first time the British former Creative Director of Céline announced such news was in 2021. Since then, all her fans (the Philophilies) worldwide have been craving to receive more information about her long-awaited comeback.
The time has finally come: 150 styles composing a comprehensive clothing line will be available on Phoebe Philo’s site from September 2023. The expectations for Phoebe Philo new brand are high, especially considering the almost religious following that Philo received right after the departure from the French Maison Céline in 2018: an era of ten years composed of seventeen collections that have remained relevant in today’s fashion panorama.
While we wait for the clothing line to drop on the site, here are the top five reasons we love – and always will love – Phoebe Philo.
5 reasons why we can’t be waiting for Phoebe Philo new brand to be revealed
1. 2010’S MINIMALISM: HOW PHOEBE PHILO DESIGNS A STYLE AGAINST THEATRICALITY
It’s not a mystery that Phoebe Philo has always been fascinated by 90s minimalism, and being Helmut Lang, the father of it, she eventually referenced his eponymous brand on multiple occasions, whether it was in a cut, in the whites or the overall sculptural allure of the garments. More specifically, Philo directly quoted the German fashion designer on the occasion of the Céline FW 2010, her second collection at the French Maison. The show took place in the same location as Lang’s last SS 2005 show.
In this way, the British designer intended to bring back that understated simplicity, that effortless look that characterised Lang’s 90s “heroin chic” but with a contemporary twist under the aegis of gracefulness.
2. FEMALE-GAZE DRESSING: THE BIRTH OF AN ARCHETYPE IN A BRAND
When you observe a single item from Philo’s Céline, you can tell that although there may not be any brainy references behind it, as in Prada, it’s still a tasteful object designed with a female perception in mind. Philo’s creations naturally reflect what the British designer and her target audience of sophisticated women would aspire to wear. Nothing more and nothing less.
Even when using animal prints, Philo never over-sexualised the woman she designed for; she didn’t even treat her like a grown-up Lolita dressed in camel. What she truly sought in her collections was to embody the variegated range of contemporary strong women that she embodied.
Philo’s sartorial cuts came with flowy silhouettes that balanced strength and delicacy, hinting at her idea of femininity, referencing the years Philo spent as Creative Director at the boho-chic Chloé.
Always ahead of her times, Phoebe Philo was the first to feature an iconic 80-year-old model in her SS 2015 campaign: Joan Didion, writer and journalist, and author of The Year of Magical Thinking. This manifested her fascination with all kinds of female beauty, going beyond the toxic age standards fashion was still hinting at.
3. GOING BEYOND THE BOUNDARIES AND REDEFINING THE “CHIC”: THIS IS PHOEBE PHILO REVOLUTION
The expression “ugly chic” is typically associated with Prada, but it can easily apply to the footwear options Phoebe Philo created during her Céline years.
For example, it is impossible to forget the colourful furry sandals and the furry stilettos from SS 2013 or even the glove shoes from SS 2015: a series of uncanny designs that anticipated the contemporary “ugly shoe” trend. Philo redefined the concept of chic by using exaggeration in both the volumes of garments and accessories.
Experimentation with colour was also a key element in her designs. While initially referencing the muted-toned 90s minimalism of Helmut Lang and Martin Margiela x Hermès, Philo created unexpected colour combinations that still maintained the graceful power her styles were known for. For example, during SS 2017, a long mint green shirt dress with magenta ruffles was paired with red suede boots – it was quite an unusual combination, but it worked!
4. A TRENDSETTER: THE CASE OF ADIDAS STAN SMITH AND MINIMALISTIC SPORT APPROACH
During her ten years at Céline, the British fashion designer didn’t simply set trends with her runways but even through her style. During the FW 2011 show, Philo took the final bow wearing a pair of total white Adidas Stan Smith. At that moment, she made history.
During the 1970s, the tennis shoe model named after famous tennis player Stan Smith became very popular. However, as Smith’s sports career declined, so did the shoe’s popularity. Adidas reduced its production, and by the 1990s, it became a shoe for commercial outlets.
Things changed when Phoebe Philo wore Stan Smiths at the closing of a Céline show. This move shifted the entire fashion paradigm, allowing her sophisticated clientele to indulge in comfy outfits by pairing sneakers with outfits like suits and cashmere sweaters.
Recognising Philo’s impact on the industry, Adidas strategically stopped the production of Stan Smith for a couple of years. They resumed production in 2014, quadrupling their previous selling price. When the creative director of the French Maison wore them again during the final bow of SS 2015, sales of the eponymous sneakers skyrocketed again.
5. PHOEBE PHILO SHAPED THE MOST VALUABLE CREATIVES OF OUR TIME
Phoebe Philo has also directly shaped the artistic sensibility of the top-tier designers of our time. To name a few, Daniel Lee, former Creative Director of Bottega Veneta and now occupying the same position at Burberry, used to be Ready to Wear Director at Céline.
Philo applied her vision of a highly wearable wardrobe for a strong and fierce woman to Bottega Veneta’s ethos. Lee wasn’t scared to play with colours, and following the steps of his British mentor, he used bold hues for his garments and accessories. The extensive use of bright green defined his career at the Italian fashion house.
Around 2014 Matthieu Blazy became the second in command at Céline, six years before, in 2020, being appointed as Lee’s successor at Bottega Veneta. Blazy was a part of Philo’s School and applied a strong intellectual approach to the intrecciato brand, manifested in the savoir-faire and artisanal knowledge of its transformative leather goods.
The LVMH Prize talent and New York-based designer Peter Do translated Céline’s deconstructed tailoring more industrially in his eponymous brand, infusing it with a strong, seductive allure. His recent appointment as Creative Director of Helmut Lang closes a circle and proves his attraction to minimalism at its purest.