Phoebe Philo left Céline six years ago, and the world has been starved of her design genius ever since. With the arrival of her first solo collection, A1, has she sated our cravings or left us wanting more?
It’s been six years since Phoebe Philo departed Céline – thus depriving the world of her fashion genius – and two years since she announced the impending arrival of her own namesake label. In other words, we’ve been waiting a long time for her return. However, her work at Céline remains a mainstay of the modern wardrobe thanks in large part to the thirst for secondhand and pre-loved items sold by sites like Resee, TheRealReal, and VestiaIre Collective. In fact, when Philo announced a launch date for her new brand, searches for “Old Céline” shot up 70 percent on eBay.
Although a few brands have stepped up to fill the hole left by her absence, nothing is quite like the real thing. Philo was prescient in giving modern, thinking women sophisticated classics with a twist, allowing them to demonstrate their independent, intellectual, and curious personalities. We’re talking trench coats that looped back on themselves from the hem, sandals lined with brightly colored shearling, and coats that tied at the waist with scarf attachments – all styles still as relevant today as when they first came down her runway.
And now the day has finally arrived that Philo is once again gracing us with her design acumen. On Monday, October 30, she debuted her first solo collection, available direct to consumer and limited to only Europe, the US, and the UK. Posts about the launch flooded social media. In less than an hour, there were looks with several sizes sold out, and a few accessories (notably the Mum necklace) were fully sold out. Five hours later, half of the drop’s (intentionally small) stock of 116 items was sold out, as noted by StyleNotCom.
It’s not surprising that this drop had such heat or that LVMH’s small-stakes gamble on this square-one fashion brand would pay off. Philo is still a household name and enjoys cult status in the industry. Her preeminence has not faded.
What is surprising is the pricing of the collection. A pair of feathery embroidered trousers (granted, delicious) rang in at $5,200. Her XL Cabas totes are going for $8,500. A hand-knitted dress covered in scale-like iridescent paillettes retailed for $19,000. Even more basic designs – monk-like tunics and basic crewneck jumpers – were priced upwards of $2,000. These are prices akin to what we see at The Row and Bottega Veneta. Should we be surprised that she entered the market at ultra-luxury price points? No. But we are surprised by how quickly they were snapped up.
Because the truth is, these designs are not an elevation of Philo’s previous work, but an extension of it. There were few new ideas, and so those who were waiting for her to come back and teach her legions of copycats a lesson were left disappointed. There were beautiful pieces in her first drop, to be sure, but nothing felt especially inspired or forward-looking. What we will applaud, however, is her no-nonsense approach to sustainability. Via an “Impact” page, Philo laid out her supply chain impact and philosophy on overconsumption in clear-eyed terms. We love to see it.