PARIS, France — Céline presentations take place in the Tennis Club de Paris, a great barn of a place some distance from the city centre. There are lines painted on the floor to define the courts, but they’re often covered by whatever stagecraft the set people have come up with for the show. Last season, for instance, there was an arena of pressed sand divided into discrete areas by huge coloured banners, designed by the Danish artist FOS. But on Sunday afternoon, the Céline audience arrived to find two stands of plastic bucket seats, like we were about to watch…I don’t know, an outdoor tennis match perhaps. It was a very literal, basic setting for the presentation but, in an unexpected way, it also proved appropriate.
After the show, Phoebe Philo cast around for words to define what she was trying to do. She mentioned abstracts — “possibilities” and “curiosity” and “finding stillness” — the states of mind that might have had some bearing on what she’d designed. However, she has often been credited with supernal insight into what women want and need from their wardrobes, so the fact that this was a collection that coddled rather than excited might be spun into something deep and meaningful.
Alternately, these were just clothes that had grown organically out of an entirely relaxed creative process. Philo said every look had been touched, twisted, turned inside out until they found their sweet spot, “taking on a life of their own,” she called it. Which explains the silk jersey slip dresses, draped and knotted to one side, as casual as a t-shirt at the beach. Or the tank dresses, or the slouchy oversize knits shot with lurex, or the clutch coats. To compare the ensembles of huge shirts with oversize collars and cuffs and matching jumbo flares to pyjamas would barely touch on their undemanding, comfortable essence. They were accessorised with sandals and a soft sack.
The flares were the collection’s building block. They were like extravagant palazzo pants, so that immediately loaned a leisured air to the presentation. The other recurring detail was an elasticated cape-like thing that was attached to big unstructured coats. A cape, yes, but it could also have been a hood, or maybe even a parachute. Céline shows increasingly have moments that spark such wayward associations. Philo will always wave them away, but you have to wonder.