Is Phoebe Philo readying a fashion comeback?
According to multiple sources on both sides of the Atlantic, the English designer is planning a new collection and has been interviewing designers. The exact nature and timing of her project could not immediately be learned.
Philo’s name has been mentioned frequently, both in connection with Azzedine Alaïa, and with a signature design project that has an eco slant and an essentials focus.
She did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
One of the most acclaimed designers of her generation, Philo made her name during a 10-year tenure at Celine. Season after season, she minted low-key modernist clothing and handbags and built a intensely loyal fan base.
She spoke to her customers’ desire for comfort and chic — no easy task — and used the likes of Joan Didion and Marie-Agnès Gillot, principal dancer at the Paris Opera Ballet, and older models such as Stella Tennant, in the Celine campaigns.
She also sparked a frenzy for old-school sneakers when she took her runway bow in 2015 shod in a pair of gleaming white Stan Smiths. Even before that, she was spotted in New Balance 574s and Vans, causing her fans to snap up the footwear.
Philo exited Celine, which is controlled by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, at the end of 2017 and has been largely absent from the fashion scene, making a rare appearance at the wedding celebration of Marc Jacobs and Char Defrancesco in 2019.
Her departure unleashed hand-wringing from her fans — and sparked speculation that she would ultimately land at a big brand such as Burberry or Chanel. Given her deep attachment to London and her aversion to press attention, a small-scale fashion project like her own brand, or Alaïa, seems a more likely avenue for the British designer.
According to one industry source, Philo was already working on her own brand when she left Chloé, but put it on hold when she accepted the Celine job. “She has always wanted to do her own thing, but it costs so much money,” said the source.
It is understood that she’s remained friendly with Chloé’s owner Johann Rupert, chairman of Compagnie Financière Richemont, and he could be a future backer. Last fall, Richemont created a joint venture with Alber Elbaz called AZFashion, a lifestyle brand.
A Richemont spokesperson declined to comment.
A graduate of Central Saint Martins, Philo began working for Chloé in 1997 as Stella McCartney’s design assistant (the two met at Saint Martins and worked together when McCartney launched her own brand in London in the Nineties), and succeeded her as creative director from 2001 to 2006. There she earned a reputation for creating highly desirable clothing and leather goods.
Hedi Slimane, who succeeded Philo at Celine, has made some big changes since her departure, nixing the accent from the brand name, and giving it a retro pulse more rooted in Parisian style and the brand’s archives.