Phoebe Philo’s work at Céline has redefined what women aspire to wear. Her minimalist aesthetic, clean lines and tonal colour palette has come to be regarded as the epitome of chic. Consistently name checked by fashion insiders as the label they want to wear, Philo has successfully resuscitated a tired Parisian house and recast it as an imperative part of each season’s fashion dialogue.
The elegant and publicity wary designer studied at Central St Martins, before joining her friend Stella McCartney at Chloé as her first assistant in 1997. The designer arrived in Paris to take up her role with gold plated teeth. Following McCartney’s exit from Chloé, Philo took over the reins of the house as creative director.
Over the next five years Philo made Chloé one of the hottest invites of Paris fashion week, and a commercial success. Riffing on the house’s archive, Philo’s designs were effortless, elegant and feminine: baby doll dresses, high wasted jeans and wooden wedges, not to mention the world conquering Paddington bag.
“My relationship with fashion is playful,” Philo told British Vogue in 2005, “and very expressive of what I’m feeling at the time.”
Suddenly however Philo resigned from her role at Chloé. The designer did not elaborate as to her reasons, however she did reference her desire to spend more time with her family. Philo’s desire to retain some semblance of a private life was believed by many to be a motivating factor, she told Vogue in 2005, the same year of her resignation, “I want to show my personality through my designs and stay pretty anonymous outside the industry.”
After a three-year hiatus, Philo was offered the creative directorship of LVMH’s Céline. "By giving Philo Céline, we’re giving her a platform to express her vision," said Pierre-Yves Roussel, chief executive of LVMH's fashion division at the time.
Philo said of her appointment, "This is a really exciting step for me to be taking, with what could be seen as one of the most promising brands of the industry. I can't wait to step back into the studio and begin creating designs which will reinvigorate the brand, get customers excited about the product and work with a team that are incredibly serious and passionate about their work"
With regards to her aesthetic Philo’ told Britsh Vogue “I felt it was time for a more back-to-reality approach to fashion, clothes that are beautiful, strong, and have ideas, but with real life driving them.”
Her sentiments perfectly reflected the mood of the moment, resulting in double-digit growth for the company and a new roster of cult items, including the much copied luggage bag.
Philo won British Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Awards in 2010, for the second time. In 2011 Philo received the International Award at the CFDA Fashion Awards.