The incredible success story of Phoebe Philo

The incredible success story of Phoebe Philo

Since she walked through the door of Celine in 2022, designer Phoebe Philo has invented the wardrobe of the modern

woman, “generalized celinization”. That’s saying something. While the house has just announced its departure, let’s

go back to this portrait written by Loïc Prigent, for the October 2022 issue of Vogue Paris.

There is a Celine method. At a time when high-end fashion houses wear out their workshops with hysterical schedules,

Phoebe Philo organizes the opposite. With motherhood, she has decreed that there are “natural limits” to working

hours. The Celine fashion show traditionally takes place on Sunday at 1pm. That morning, the crews are on the warpath

at 9am. White gloves are worn. We finish one or two shoes, one or two belts, otherwise it wouldn’t be fun, but

on the faces of the studio team, even if we are of course relatively tense, there is not this air of “slave breaking

stones for six months to build a rice terrace on the side of the mountain before the creator decided three nights

ago that all the little stones of the mountain must imperatively be shaped like hearts, smooth and irregular at

the same time”.

Celine Fall-Winter 2022-2022 fashion show

Here, the backstage is peaceful. Often in improbable shorts, photographer Juergen Teller soaks up the atmosphere

and takes pictures sometimes. There is only one accredited photographer and two cameras for the house video

archive. Not a single sound engineer. The other time, taped to a wall was a white piece of paper that read,

“Keep it clean.” This was about the nearby buffet, but also described the general atmosphere. No digital

mannerism to get the party going, no one is in charge of crafting messages in 140 signs, no need. Only a

certain Anna Wintour comes to kiss thirty minutes before the kick-off. Phoebe Philo is relaxed. She smiles

and controls. We saw her change the makeup of the models at the last minute, her rigorous vision is imposed

until the end. We feel a formidable elaboration, which was specified the previous days in fittings in total

closure. No one outside the teams was ever able to attend these work sessions. We only know that only 30%

of the clothes created by her and her teams survive to the catwalk. Founded in 1945, Céline was bought and

recalibrated along with Vuitton, Givenchy, Dior and Loewe during the great LVMH offensive in 1996. Phoebe

Philo arrives in 2022, reorganizes everything. When her first Céline collection was released in October

2022, the verdict was in: “Everything she does seems urgent,” exclaimed one American. Her two-tone tote

was mercilessly copied, as were her coats and her paradoxically strict yet fluid look; we witnessed what

has been called widespread celinization. During the fashion show, there is just before the catwalk a hairdresser

of last smoothing and Phoebe Philo, with her eagle eye, the white gloved hand that smoothes or makes overflow,

and a faithful collaborator who watches and holds the ashtray and the fag. The collection begins in vanilla

and felted gray. We believe to reach a comfortable cruising speed. A dark jade, a reasonable burgundy, a

navy blue thousand meters deep. And then it spins with a brushed mohair coat that looks like the overly

warm interior of a semi-truck cockpit. Phoebe Philo likes to incorporate generic populism into her elitism:

she takes the giant check jacquard from ultra-prolo Barbès bags for her Winter 2022 coats. But she juxtaposes

them with an ultra-Romanov accessory: the closed stole that becomes a radzimir shoulder warmer. She has

fun, linking smashes, counter-steps and surprise climbs to the net. Not just good taste in matte silk crepe

or ink gazar. Not a recitation of style office. So, simple trompe-l’oeil, clever games and corruptions,

perverted classicism like an iconic skate shoe but made of ostrich, or a handbag in the shape of a giant

cookiechinese fortune.

Coach Jes Camera Bag

Celine spring-summer 2022 fashion show

The Celine client doesn’t want to feel forced or in a carnival of tics that are too hung up on one season. Phoebe

Philo values the quiet pride her clients should ideally have in their Celine wardrobe. The thrill of knowing you’re

on the cutting edge of fashion but still relatively anonymous on the street, or on Avenue Montaigne, especially

not skating or pretentious. A pure line, occasionally quite masculine, with a sober-fantasy singularity, as if she

had imposed the limits of men’s clothing. The virile wardrobe too pushed becomes immediately ridiculous. Phoebe

Philo sometimes seems to impose this framework for a desirable and realistic collection. She inserts disruption,

a hallucinating heel, a Babylonian belt buckle. Celine is originally a leather house, so there is leather, fox collars

(removable), mink dress (collective unscrewing of the front row), emerald crocodile bag, curly lamb. But her years

with activist Stella McCartney have left their mark, and Phoebe Philo also uses materials like faux fur or vegan

calf. PP usually takes a drag on the cigarette during the finale. Then goes out quickly to greet, sneakers on the

feet, frank smile, reserved, fast. Then, embrace with the pillars of the studio, rather the same ones of a season

on the other, even if competitors sometimes succeed in hunting a head. Then, the press is let in to greet her. When

she arrived at Celine’s, Phoebe Philo was talking. She sighed in annoyance before the interviews, but she went along

with it. She explained, patiently. And then she was pregnant again, and this new urgency allowed her to take a back

seat to the press. No more guest cameras. Since then, she doesn’t really talk anymore. A year ago, when she was

presenting a phenomenal collection in a private mansion behind the Arc de Triomphe, journalists came to ask her

a few questions. No TV interview was granted, but she answered three questions on the fly. “How did you get the

idea for these yellow fur pumps?”… Answer, in a faint voice, “It just came to me.” There. Nothing. Just like that.

It’s not even a calculated withdrawal decision to give intellectual height, it’s just that she’s no longer at the

stage of teaching about her creative decisions. One could analyze that she had just given birth and that no doubt

soft and cheerful things could appear obvious and appealing to her to punctuate a serene silhouette. Sesame Street’s

chick yellow bloom in the cold Madison Avenue dressing room. Just like the collection of her pregnancy, the coats

that had been close to the body had become phenomenal in size, a soft, enveloping and giant armor. A feminine evidence

that generates an instinctive attraction for these collections, a pack of Célinophiles each season growing. find Celine Spring-Summer 2022 show

Phoebe Philo is not a Carmelite nun. She has a minimalist image, even though she drives a Rolls and nails

a Warhol in diamond powder to her office wall. One might think that her relative silence is a sign of laborious

asceticism, but no, she is always laughing, natural and quick to be very frank. Some would fantasize that

she sticks a pseudo-cerebral speech to her clothing, she settles for a revealing anecdote: she was given

a sewing machine at 14 and as a teenager she loved to redesign clothes to her liking. A love of fashion finally

innocent: . And an appeased ego: she often says “we”, completely assuming her relationship to the studio collective. Her crazy

years at Chloé are long gone, even if there is still that untamed sparkle in her eye. And you can still see her

former Parisian roommate from her wilder days backstage at the Céline show; . Barely 40, she is the youngest of the new heavyweights. Disciplined, self-confident to the last degree

(on her CV is written in titanium and gold letters: “One day when I was generating hundreds of millions

of euros in profits and was in the top 5, I quit everything to make a better living and took a two-year

break.) She gives the strong impression that she doesn’t just create from a wise chart of inspirations

but from experience, having tested her limits, listening to her biological clock, defining by elimination

what she really wants. In this line, Celine boutiques appear as a purity of structure and freedom – no

artworks in the fitting rooms, no deep sofas, no orgiastic windows, little decoration: the only event

is finally the mirror, slightly tilted upwards to flatter the reflection that will be presented there.

And that’s good enough, there is a crazy crowd in front of these mirrors.

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