Phoebe Philo, the British designer who became a cult hero in fashion for her intelligent and grown-up womenswear at the French fashion house of Céline, is to return to the industry with a new label next year.
After a three-year absence, Philo released a statement announcing that her first eponymous brand will sell “clothing and accessories rooted in exceptional quality and design”.
The designer said she was “very much looking forward to being back in touch with my audience and people everywhere”. The luxury giant LVMH is Philo’s financial backer, but holds a minority stake, an arrangement which Philo flagged in her statement, saying that “to be independent, to govern and experiment on my own terms is hugely significant to me”. It is thought the brand will be based in London, where Philo lives with her family.
Sixty years after Christian Dior revolutionised how women dressed with his New Look, Phoebe Philo did the same with the Female Gaze. Her upmarket but understated Céline collections appealed to women who cared about design but did not see themselves as decorative.
She pioneered the casting of older models in her shows and hired Joan Didion to star in an advertising campaign. Like every great fashion designer, she had an uncanny knack of tapping into emotion with her clothes.
Her oversized polo necks, long hemlines, louche silk shirts and quirky shoes seemed to characterise a new era of women dressing for themselves, instead of to comply with a vision of femininity rooted in patriarchal values. Seasonal trends were largely ignored in favour of a coherent, timeless wardrobe, and the long, loose silhouette Philo put on her Paris fashion week catwalks came to reverberate around high street shop floors all over the world.
Her departure from Céline was greeted by her fashion devotees as the loss of a spiritual leader – a fervour which was underscored when her successor, Hedi Slimane, unveiled a new vision for the house which riffed on retro codes of bourgeois French femininity. Her name has been linked with every major vacancy in fashion of recent years, including the Chanel job in the wake of Karl Lagerfeld’s death.
Given the buzz around Philo’s new venture, at a moment when the fashion industry is searching for a post-pandemic identity, her partnership with LVMH is a coup for the luxury giant.
Bernard Arnault, LVMH chairman and CEO, said: “Phoebe Philo is one of the most talented designers of our time … I am very happy to partner with Phoebe on her entrepreneurial adventure.”