Was there any designer who powered female confidence more than Phoebe Philo did while she was at Céline? Looking back to her first runway season with this house, Spring 2010, I wrote that she designs “fashion as it’s really lived.” I stand by that. Always just an edge ahead—say, by a white pointed shoe (first seen, Fall 2012)—of what we thought we’d never, ever wear, and are now totally into, Philo widened the parameters of that which is silently, joyfully accepted by women. It turned into that rare thing: the consensus-dressing of a generation. The extent of the copying of Philo’s Céline in contemporary fashion made her style seem, like the weather, so normal, so taken for granted as to be almost invisible.
Sisters should know that the clothes and accessories in this Pre-Fall lookbook, shot by Philo’s friend Juergen Teller, are definitively her last work of this era. The weirdness in the fashion system being what it is, the collection will be delivered now-ish, through June, while the previously reviewed Fall collection, by a team, will follow, before Hedi Slimane’s Céline debut is shown in October.
As her exit statement, it’s worth pausing a bit over the imagery. In the absence of her wanting to say very much, people always read signs of Philo’s emotional states and feminism into her clothes. Well, what’s here? The bold stares of the women into Teller’s lens read as an ultimate statement of how far the projection of self-worth has come today—an autonomous, makeup-free, totally don’t-care-who’s-judging-me attitude. Rude women. It’s a powerful, courageous aspiration for the female condition as we go about our lives in the era of Time’s Up, you might contend. (And as a footnote: Karolin Wolter, the model with the blonde pixie cut, has exactly the same hairstyle that Philo has been wearing lately. It might be going too far to see her as a self-portrait. But . . . )
Clothes-wise, on these defiant females, you see all the extravagant chicness and the humor, the wearability and the downright ugly weirdness that have given Céline addicts their fixes all these years. There’s an emphasis on super-deluxe leather, patchworked into graphic stripes and diagonals, or kinkily, and very Frenchly, cut in black. But what are those hefty black safety boots that look as if they could wade in the mud of a construction site? Hilarious! (Still, so many Céline clients are successful architects.)
Calmingly, there are the trouser suits that have anchored it all along. There are three slim, bootleg-y versions—stone, burgundy, a black tuxedo—for all those people who will want to stockpile (while noting how a color-matched hoodie worn under a tailored jacket makes a new three-piece suit, thank you very much). Challengingly, there are those super-extra pleated pants too. Not something you might want to jump into straightaway, perhaps. But assuredly, some will, and with Philo’s track record of setting an extreme that becomes normal through copying in a few seasons flat? You might as well buy and lay them down like a fine wine, until the moment they mature. (From experience, you know this makes sense.)
There will be much of this sort to plunder for future-wearing. As she left, Philo made a vintage collection of trophies and souvenirs. It puts the seal on her reputation as the woman who oriented other grown-up women through the best part of the last decade. Let the shopping frenzy begin.