In the six years since she stepped away from the helm of Parisian titan Céline (with an accent) an almost mythical status has been afforded to the British designer Phoebe Philo. The woman who would appear briefly at the end of her runway shows (in white Stan Smiths, sending out a bat signal to all that white trainers were A Thing to be worn with everything at all points) who didn’t do interviews, but who ushered in a post Noughties era of cool, sometimes minimal, often elaborate taste. Trio crossbody bags for the everywoman, fur covered pumps for the Frieze crowd.
From navy jumpers to those fur lined sandals; perfectly cut shirting and tailored trousers to leather versions of checked market bags. Style, wit and good taste had never been so tightly woven together. She was that rare breed of designer which provokes fashion and mood changes, knowing what we want before we do; rather than playing easy wins to the crowd.
The silence from her absence from the fashion scene has been crescendoing louder ever since. Philophiles stalking resale sites bartering for Old Céline, Instagram awash with old runway shot thirst traps, fans listlessly regramming for more.
Until today. In a stealth move, fashion’s Willy Wonka reopened her factory gates and at 3pm the first 150 pieces from her new “A1” LVMH backed collection appeared online on her website.
For anyone wishfully thinking that she might have taken a more egalitarian bent for this first move under her own name, forget it. Ditto, any moves beyond a sample size model. It's all finely tuned for her 1% acolytes - reassuringly, extravagantly expensive, constructed from luxuriant fabrics with price tags to match. A striking double breasted coat in caviar shearling is £12,000, a Philo-perfection high neck jumper in “extra fine merino and yak wool” is £1500, a XL cabas bag — “black calf leather with toffee suede lining” — comes in at £6,500.
The collection is Philo-assured, picking up somewhat predictably from where she left off with Céline. Colours are sludgy and subdued for the most part, dirty khaki “shroom” loose wide legged cargo trousers, military trench coats in heavy wool, dark leather jackets with swathing detachable caped-scarves. Tailoring is key, dusky shirting and loose but silhouette framing trousers give a genderless edge. Drop waist white and black jeans and slightly hoof-like court shoes give that off-kilter wrong-shoe energy so synonymous with Philo.
Flashes of fun come in khaki trousers which have a zip running from ankle to bottom, cheekily unzipping all the way; texture is rife, a bright red mini dress comes heavily shredded as if feathered at the edges; cream trousers are similarly heavily shredded like a sort of fashion big bird. Jewellery is hefty and gold — one necklace and bracelet reads MUM repeated all the way round (for children or silence one wonders. Has she been spending time stalking Mumfluencers on Instagram? Are Mums now fashion? So many potential siren signals). Loafers with a rounded square toe and mid heel, ankle high pull-on jodhpur boots, yellow tinted aviator sunglasses give a drop of heady Seventies cool.
If Philo’s clothes have sought to reflect a sentiment of the times, this first collection, authentic to its designer’s well known taste, but without perhaps some of the patterned prints and flourishes of her more extravagant Céline collections, is a stealth show of her hand. Serious fashion for uncertain times, at least for those who can afford to buy it.
And yet, by the time I’d finished writing this piece, the site had crashed, only showing one fluffy POA jacket (price on application, ie eye wateringly expensive) left.
Phoebe Philo, available now, phoebephilo.com