PARIS — And now for something completely different: A designer happily staying put.
Phoebe Philo and Céline are to continue their long and fruitful collaboration, squelching an avalanche of online speculation that Philo was eyeing the exit.
Employees of the fashion house, controlled by luxury giant LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, were reassured this week that the designer and the company are remaining together.
An internal memo seen by WWD — jointly signed by chief executive officer Marco Gobbetti and Philo — spells out that the designer and the company “are more motivated and committed than ever to their partnership and will continue to create beautiful products.”
The memo acknowledged that the company has been the subject of reports “based on rumors, not truths,” lamenting the “poor journalism” and “dubious sources” that have fueled the gossip mill.
Speculation about a Philo exit has been percolating since mid-2015, and reached a boiling point last week when a blog specified that the designer would exit after the fall 2016 collection is presented in March.
Céline officials have remained silent amid the rumors.
A raft of recent designer exits — Raf Simons from Dior, Alber Elbaz from Lanvin and Stefano Pilati from Zegna among them — has ignited an online guessing game about other partnerships that could become unglued.
While shy of the media, and rarely seen in Paris, Philo is widely implicated in Céline’s development, including the interior concept for its sprawling showrooms in a 17th-century mansion on the Rue Vivienne, which opened last year.
It was recently the site of the brand’s pre-fall presentation, Philo’s Seventies-tinged clothes hung amidst vintage furnishings and elaborate flower arrangements.
She also has signed on for the third time as juror for the LVMH Prize, joining such designer peers as Karl Lagerfeld, Riccardo Tisci, Marc Jacobs and Nicolas Ghesquière. Judging is to take place in mid-June.
One of the biggest fashion stars of her generation, Philo joined Céline in 2008 after a three-year hiatus and almost single-handedly brought minimalism and realism back to fashion. She also unfurled an array of hit handbags that made the brand a powerhouse in the leather goods category, catapulting sales beyond half a billion euros, according to market sources.
A graduate of London’s Central Saint Martins fashion school, Philo was classmates with Stella McCartney and worked with her when McCartney launched her own collection after graduation. Philo followed McCartney to Chloé in 1997 and took the top job in 2001 when McCartney left to set up her own fashion house in a joint venture with Gucci Group.
Philo succeeded in accelerating Chloé’s rejuvenation, and resigned for personal reasons in 2006, mainly to spend more time with her children and her husband, art dealer Max Wigram.
The next Céline show is scheduled for March 6 in Paris.