Ex-Celine designer Phoebe Philo is making a comeback to the fashion industry. She’s set to launch her eponymous brand next year.
More details will be released closer to January, but for now, the upcoming line will be one that is “rooted in exceptional quality and design”, according to Philo. Her former employer French luxury conglomerate LVMH has taken a minority stake in the upcoming venture but Philo will be left “to be independent, to govern and experiment on [her] own terms”.
“Being in my studio and making once again has been both exciting and incredibly fulfilling,” said Philo in the announcement. “I am very much looking forward to being back in touch with my audience and people everywhere.”
Three years prior, Philo was the creative director of Celine, a position she held for a decade. She was hired by Marco Gobbetti, who was the CEO of the French label before he left for Burberry in 2016. During her time at the French label, she has propelled it to cult status and dressed numerous celebrities including Kanye West. He wore a printed silk pyjama shirt from the brand’s spring 2011 collection to Coachella.
Philo sent shockwaves throughout the fashion industry when she announced her departure from Celine in 2017. Editors and stylists lamented the news as the end of an era. An Instagram handle named @oldceline, which pays homage to the Philo-era, sprung up soon after.
Her name has since been linked to every major vacancy in fashion, including Chanel, in the wake of Karl Lagerfeld’s death and Burberry when Marco Gobbetti was looking for a replacement for Christopher Bailey. Her post at Celine, however, was eventually filled by former Dior Hommes creative designer, Hedi Slimane in 2018.
Philo’s meteoric rise in the cut-throat industry is a success story that still resonates with young designers. Her collections during her Celine tenure appealed to women and even created a new phenomenon called the “Female Gaze”, which the Guardian compared to Monsieur Christian Dior’s “New Look“. In other words, she revolutionised how women want to dress. With a refined touch, the style became synonymous with female empowerment.
Besides being the mastermind behind Celine’s revival — annual sales increased from €200 million to €700 million under her leadership — Philo was also pioneering other trends. She was among the first to cast older models like Joan Didion, popularise Adidas’ Stan Smith sneakers, and set the wave for minimalism. Aside from the clothes, the money maker for the brand includes its accessories such as Luggage, Classic, Trapeze, Trio, and of course, the fur-lined Birkenstocks.
In a bid to fill up the aesthetic void left by Philo, a new wave of designers has risen — all of whom worked under Philo at Celine. They are LVMH Prize finalist Peter Do, Bottega Veneta’s Daniel Lee, and Rokh founder and designer Rok Hwang.
Maximalism has been the trending notion as propelled by the likes of Alessandro Michele at Gucci and Demna Gvasalia’s Balenciaga, but perhaps the industry would once again pivot back to the minimalistic era. And at this inflection point, it is still unclear where fashion is going to head next but Philo’s new label might just nudge it in a new direction.
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