Has Phoebe Philo Done It Again?

Almost six years after exiting Celine, the prolific designer has returned with the first delivery under her eagerly-awaited namesake label — and it’s just as strong as we hoped.

Fashion 
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October 30 has been etched on fashion’s calendar in bold text since the first of the month, when Phoebe Philo confirmed the launch for her eponymous brand’s debut line. The designer, who famously held the industry in a chokehold with her path-forging work at Celine, has finally delivered what’s arguably the most-anticipated fashion line of this year; and at first glance, the 150-piece-strong range is a thrilling, matured evolution of her confident, highly-celebrated design ethos — one we have not witnessed in real-time since Philo exited Celine in 2017.

Fans of Philo — or Philophiles, as the industry calls them — have waited much longer than 30 days for this momentous occasion. Philo first announced her return in July 2021, revealing that she would be establishing an independent fashion house, with LVMH on board as a minority investor. And in 2022, Philo named Patrik Silén, who previously spent 16 years at consulting firm McKinsey & Company before becoming the chief strategy officer at ASOS in the UK, the brand’s chief operating officer. But she still had not disclosed any information about what to expect from the label.

It wasn’t until February of this year that the designer shared the release date for her brand (which was first set for September and later pushed to October), and she waited until July to open registration on the imprint’s website. Still, the brand’s Instagram account, which boasts over 300,000 followers, remains blank, and Philo herself has remained hidden throughout the label’s press rollout. But at a time when high-profile names are often taking the helms of fashion houses, and in an era where female creative directors are becoming a rarity, Philo’s mysterious approach to brand-leading, as well as the womanly appeal of her designs, feels quite refreshing.

Femininity permeates her inaugural line, which the brand first showed to a small list of insiders in its London headquarters last week, much like the debut of her first collection for Celine in 2009, also hosted in the brand’s showroom. While Philo was absent from last week’s affair, her office provided a clear indicator that this endeavor is no passion project; it’s a fully-fledged business venture with a long-term agenda. Inside, she houses a native atelier, one that adheres to the “perfectionist standards” of those in Paris, per Vogue, and it’s already churned out a massive lineup consisting of crisp jackets, leather blousons, big-shouldered blazers, textural trousers, dressy pants, and an abundance of complementary heels, bags, sunglasses and the like.

In the launch notes, the brand states that this is not a standard fashion “collection;” rather, it’s an “edit.” The debut line, titled A1, will arrive in three releases through December. The following edit, labeled A2, will come in the spring of next year, but Philo is not following the standardized fashion calendar. And where the designer opts for a subversive approach to her release strategy, her silhouettes adopt a similarly disruptive personality with their confident tailoring.

In A1’s first output, the color story is rather reserved, rarely straying from tones of black, white, olive and oxblood; prints, too, were excluded from the conversation entirely. But unlike the laws of the tired “quiet luxury” trope, Philo’s latest cuts steer toward the bold through their voluminous structures, edgy shapes and punkish finishes.

Bondage materials wrap around the knees on otherwise dressy trousers; zippers glide up the entire legs of multi-pocketed mom jeans, and rebellious leather jackets, en masse, manifest the sophisticated-yet-countercultural character that lives inside these clothes. Shoulders, too, play a key role in defining the new-age Philo persona: on many ensembles, they appear enlarged, arched and rounded, drawing eyes in such a way that’s reminiscent of Claude Montana’s work in the ’80s.

Suits, with double-breasted closures, nod to masculine formalwear, but they remain intact with Philo’s female-gazing craftsmanship via form-flattering cinched waists. The majority of the edit feels just as polished, but Philo does stray outside of this box on a few occasions: wavy leggings employ four-way stretch functionality; a double-take-worthy ruffled coat, in purple, offers an ideal after-hours statement, and white trousers hire the same textile for show-stopping party attire. Overall, there’s an unwavering elegance to each design that shifts the status quo for what’s appropriate. Instead of alienating formalwear from sportswear or casualwear from clubwear, Philo fuses these categories into a unified closet that feels adaptable across affairs.

This sentiment translates into the edit’s footwear and accessories, as well. Here, heels are a requirement, with some coming in wide shapes, others boasting thin facades and more embracing the classic stiletto. At new heights, Philo’s proportion-shifting bags look all the more impressive; her leather tote bag, in particular, is so massive that it could quite easily double as a weekender.

Jewelry, meanwhile, offers a final touch of class. Gold cuffs and angular rings reference Egyptian styles, and falling earrings have a modernist appeal. Elsewhere, a necklace, reading “Mum” in gold, reminds Philophiles of the designer’s own personal evolution: she’s now a mother of three.

With her own brand, Philo’s goal is “to create a product that reflects permanence.” She’s done this once already, as proven by the myriad fans who still rock their “Old Celine” garments from the designer’s era at the brand. Now, though, it’s about finding the newness in her already-adored work. For one, she looks to accomplish this by placing a much-stronger emphasis on sustainability, which, in turn, will result in smaller amounts of supply and, subsequently, even higher demand.

“As part of our determination to address overall environmental impact, our focus is on the material issues of overconsumption, waste and the fashion supply chain,” the label said, adding, “The Phoebe Philo business model is designed to create a responsible balance between production and demand. For us, this means producing notably less than anticipated want.”

While there are nods to Philo’s days at Celine, like Canadian-Ukrainian model Daria Werbowy, who often appeared in the designer’s campaigns for the French house, serving as the new line’s face, the Phoebe Philo brand is a markedly advanced interpretation of the minimalistic codes that she honed in Paris. The through line here is her clear penchant for perverse tailoring and her celebration of femininity, at all ages and for all people. At the time of writing, a few items from Philo’s debut edit have already sold out — and yes, that “Mum” necklace is unfortunately one of them.

Phoebe Philo’s first edit under her namesake label is now available to shop on the brand’s webstore, with prices ranging from $1,100 USD to $25,000 USD. Take a closer look at the range in the gallery above before it’s all gone.

In more fashion news, Billie Eilish brought sustainable sophisitication to her first Gucci collaboration.

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