Celine, Girl Came Back

celine1972Celine Ad from 1972

celine1978Celine Ad from 1978

So many fashion houses have built a business on the tenants of bourgeois taste, perhaps no more than Celine who enjoyed the extent of this under Michael Kors’ design direction from 1997 to 2004. He established the reticent DNA for a label whose origins began as a children’s shoemaker and later evolved into American glamor, for those whose memory had been cut short by flashier and trendier labels, or for the young, Kors gave the brand an image and some codes, something for association. He left to concentrate on his own label though his collections for Celine had been well received by both critics and customers, and he took with him any identity or connection to the times Celine had. Former Burberry designer Roberto Menichetti was hired as replacement, after two terribly unsuccessful collections he was switched out with former Prada designer Ivana Omazic. At Celine she proved that she was a talented enough designer but failed to bring the label back to its good health under Kors, essentially she failed to bring the name up to par with the stars of the scene; Alber Elbaz, Nicholas Ghequiere, Ricardo Tisci, Stefano Pilati, Marc Jacobs, Olivier Theyskens, etc. The house went completely unnoticed during her tenure. Enter Philo.

Although it was Stella McCartney who bought Chloe back to life, giving it the “cool” and not chic feel needed to come to prominence in the late 90’s, it was Phoebe Philo who transformed it from a merely hot label to a totally eminent and industry dominating house. In Philo’s tenure she made Chloe into one of the most anticipated, most coveted, and most copied collections. Her ideas for the label, now pushing on 3 years in stagnation, are still referenced and recycled across the whole spectrum in the industry. When she left Chloe to commit to her family, the label took on the same fate as Celine, which as of last year Philo was hired on to design.

The images of Philo’s debut resort collection for Celine – shot quite bare in a Chelsea studio, were put up on style.com this morning. It’s notable in two regards before even seeing the collection, 1) Philo has been away from the fashion system, even with the rumor that she had been consulting for GAP Europe, she’s been out of the cycle and is either out of touch or with a totally fresh and acute perspective. 2) LVMH gave Philo carte blanche, total freedom to reshape the label in her vision. It’s a strategy that worked wonders when LVMH gave Dior Homme to Hedi Slimane to make his own.

Fabric development, which was a trade mark of Chloe under Philo, has been resumed. One of Philo’s strengths is her understanding that any successful design comes from the fabric, and she’s invested in this right from the start. It’s a quiet beginning but an incredibly strong one.

Reviews are on style.com and wwd.com

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