One of Fashion Week’s most notable topics was the departure of Phoebe Philo from Céline, and LVMH’s shocking choice of Hedi Slimane to replace her. In our minds, it highlights a big shift in the modern fashion industry. Until the 1970s, fashion houses were solo owned and operated, but multinational conglomerates swept in and transformed fashion from a creative endeavor to a hard-nosed, bottom line-oriented, investor-centric business. Céline, owned by LVMH, is a brand whose woman is clearly defined and whose loyal customers sought the very specific vision set forth by Philo. She was a woman designing for women and their needs.
In an interview with The New York Times, Marianne Mueller defined Céline’s unique outlook, saying, “It feels very different to be dressed by a woman. In a world where women are juggling many different roles and expectations, Phoebe Philo reminds us of who we are — rather than who we are supposed to be.” Sofia Coppola described Céline’s aesthetic as “chic without any effort,” while Stella Tennant described her favorite pieces from the brand, saying, “They feel like friends.”
One thing is certain: Philo will be missed.
Strong, independent, brilliant women responded viscerally to Céline’s eccentric, creative, and stylish wardrobe. What will they get with Slimane? Will he Los Angelize the brand? Will he remake Céline in his edgy, youthful, aloof image? No one knows for sure, but what is certain is that he will introduce menswear, fragrances, and couture in an effort to increase profitability. He was wildly successful at Saint Laurent and is poised for similar success at Céline, but will his reboot alienate the traditional Céline customer? That’s what everyone is afraid of.
For that reason, Céline’s Fall/Winter 2018 collection, the final effort that upholds the Philo aesthetic, felt mournful. The design team that worked alongside Philo created this collection and remained faithful to her techniques. The silhouette of the dresses and coats was oversized and roomy, and each look was kitted out with clasps, large brooches through which sections of fabric had been threaded, and drawstring accents – it was a way of personalizing the fit to suit individual needs. Cozy knits, silky printed dresses, contrast snakeskin boots, and an array of chic pocketbooks and totes rounded out the presentation.
Although the Philo-laced collection was a generous gesture by the in-house design team, it lacked the designer’s magic touch. Yet, the show must go on. Next season holds a lot of anticipation, and it’s anyone’s guess as to how the Slimane years play out. One thing is certain: Philo will be missed. Mightily.