Last week, Phoebe Philo announced her return to the fashion world with an eponymous brand to launch early next year, nearly four years after leaving LVMH-owned Celine in the hands of her successor Hedi. Slimane. The news has been hailed by womenswear fanatics who mourn her absence (such as those who commemorate her decade at “Old Céline” on social networks), and the men who kept a close eye on her personal style. Should we expect the smart, clean clothes that so-called philophiles revered? Or is Philo’s work really about something quite different?
In this week’s episode of Corporate Lunch, GQOn style and clothing podcast, global style director Noah Johson, associate editor Samuel Hine and fashion critic Rachel Tashjian ask: is Phoebe Philo the most misunderstood fashion designer? Could it be that the Philo we adore is his personal style and in fact his design aesthetic is something much stranger than what we tend to remember? “She always had that loose elegance that is really ambitious,” Noah says of Philo’s own style, but “her influence and actual output is poorly understood”.
“It was so imitated that people seem to have the imitations in their heads rather than what she actually did,” adds Rachel, “which was really surreal and quite trendy and even funny.”
Philo is often considered the author of contemporary minimalism, a designer who created a clean work wardrobe for a woman of good taste. But take a look at Philo’s entire work and you’ll see a much more spooky and trendy picture. When she took the reins of Chloe in 2001, she invented a party girl’s answer to bohemian chic, with low pants and flippy mini-dresses. (She also launched the it-bag market along the way, demonstrating a savvy talent for commercialism.) At Céline, where she worked from 2008 to 2017, she reinvented the ultimate bourgeois brand with quirks like luxury. fur lined on Birkenstocks, thematic collections around the performance of Yves Klein, Benji B’s original killer tapes, and an underlying stream of perversion. She once described her job as “vulgar, loaded, intense.” She is often referred to as a feminist designer, but her super intimate, almost diaristic clothes are hard to confuse with the message-driven spirit of today’s politically charged fashion world. It’s hard to imagine him putting the “VOTE” product on the run.
In fact, and if Philo’s most important influence was not on women’s clothing but on lovers of men’s clothing, like Kanye West, who wore the Philo’s Spring 2011 blouse during a performance at Coachella? “It’s probably Celine’s clothing that is the most culturally relevant,” Sam says.
The most important question of all, however: do we think she will make menswear?
To learn more about Philo’s return and why the new one Gossip Girl rules, whether True romance is Christian Slater’s best film, and the Bottega Venetaissan- ce, tune in to the corporate lunch on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.