Phoebe Philo’s return to fashion
Phoebe Philo’s return to fashion
Fashion philosophies have been key in driving fashion toward modernity. From surrealist Schiaparelli to the extravagant Rei Kawakubo, every designer brings a set of ideas and concepts that talk to their customer. While fashion has not always been glitz and glamour, the idea of looking desirable has always kept the fashion industry innovating, be it in terms of marketing a dainty Caucasian woman in delicate clothes or launching exquisite perfumes to add exclusivity to their clothing. But fashion hasn’t always been that way, and some designers have proved that a brand doesn’t require theatrics and fantasy to maintain a relationship with their customer. The most notable of them is Phoebe Philo.
Born in 1973, Phoebe was interested in fashion since childhood. After being gifted a sewing machine for her 14th birthday, her talents seemed to incline towards fashion. She went on to study fashion from Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, one of the most coveted fashion institutions in the world. Her classmates included famed names like Stella McCartney with whom she joined the French brand Chloé as her design assistant after graduating in 1997. After McCartney stepped down from the Creative Director position, Philo emerged to be the brand’s successor in 2001.
Her work at Chloé gained popularity for simplistic yet beautiful clothes along with the famed ‘it’ bag ‘The Paddington’. Philo successfully gained recognition for her simplistic and powerful clothing, which was powered by minimalists like Jil Sanders and Helmut Lang. She has often mentioned that the idea behind her design process is making clothes that are wearable. She transformed Chloé into a French luxury house that is still known to be one of the top fashion brands of Paris. After a successful run of 5 years, she announced her departure from the brand in 2006 to spend time with her family including her first child in London.
This was the time when LVMH was vigorously shaking up French houses and adding young talent to head legacy brands. Think Alexander McQueen for Givenchy and Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton. Brands under LVMH were performing well, especially the French brands with a Parisian legacy. This offered Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH, to present Philo with the Creative Director position at Céline in 2008. Philo agreed to take the position in terms of working from London where she could be with her family.
Philo’s work at Céline is seen as pivotal in the fashion industry. Céline was traditionally known for feminine designs and Philo’s work at Chloé was on the similar lines. Philo took this opportunity to frame clothing that served a purpose to an audience that was recovering from a financial crisis. When other luxury brands were nose-diving, Philo’s Céline was influential in making simple and efficient clothing for powerful and intellectual women. Her strategically placed cuts, rich fabrics and minimal accessorising were quickly marked as the future of fashion.
Her timing couldn’t have been more apt, as the fashion industry was looking for an alternative from ostentatious trends. One of the few details of her design influence was the fact that people bought her expensive clothes in a time when money was limited and the display of luxury was seen tone-deaf. Her immersive yet clean design made her clothes fit in with the direction where culture was heading.
Philo was shy of a spotlight and was never interested in doing interviews. However, she went on to get several accolades including winning British Designer of the Year in 2004 and 2010, International Designer of the Year by Council of Fashion Designers of America in 2011 and being appointed as the officer of The Order of the British Empire by the royal family of Britain in 2014.
All of these accolades have made Philo one of the most highly regarded fashion designers.
After working at Céline for almost 10 years, Philo announced her exit from the brand in 2017, making her Pre-Fall 2018 her final collection with the brand. Philo has remained out of the public light since then. However, rumours have been making the rounds of publications and media persons alike suggesting the return of Philo to the fashion world. This won’t be the first time for her to return to a world that needs fresh takes and ideas during a crisis.
While many say that Philo will be announcing her own brand, chances of her joining a French luxury house cannot be disregarded, as Givenchy’s seat remains vacant and Philo already shares good relations with LVMH. Let us look at both the cases. If Philo manages to become the Creative Director of Givenchy, the brand’s aesthetics will remain barely unchanged, as Clare’s work at Givenchy was focused on making wearable clothing that incorporated unconventional materials like latex. If Philo’s work at Céline is anything to go by, Givenchy would be a perfect fit for her. This would also mean that the brand’s headquarters Hotel de Caraman won’t be able to witness Philo’s work, as she will most likely be working from London. Givenchy can provide a readymade platform for Philo to resume her work during a financial crisis
If Philo is planning on creating a new brand, the biggest challenge for her would be establishing all resources from scratch. During a time when resource allocation, funding and sourcing seem challenging, Phoebe might face trouble in launching her brand. Also considering the market saturation of the UK and current political advances on Brexit, her path to create a successful brand may be tougher that one might imagine. However, Philo has done it in the past due to consumer demand, and if the pandemic slows down to a stable state, things might look promising.
Fashion goes through cycles, and experts say that if successful, Philo’s return to fashion can change the way things have been for a while. The pandemic has already caused many irreversible changes to the fashion industry and many look optimistic about Phoebe Philo’s return to show us the light at the end of the tunnel.