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Phoebe Philo is leaving Celine- here's how she changed the way women dress

Phoebe Philo, the designer who has arguably redefined how women dress in the past decade, is departing the French fashion house Celine after months of speculation that her resignation was imminent.


Phoebe Philo, the designer who has arguably redefined how women dress in the past decade, is departing the French fashion house Celine after months of speculation that her resignation was imminent. 

From streamlined, architectural handbags to minimalist tailoring and ugly-chic shoes, Philo's artfully modern influence made fashion grow up and speak to grown-ups. If you have taken to wearing trainers for anything other than the gym, reframed Birkenstocks as an acceptable summer staple or  lusted after a navy-only wardrobe, then it is Philo you have to thank. Her decision to cast then 80 year-old author Joan Didion as the face of  Celine's Spring 2015 campaign was instrumental in ushering in a new era of appreciation for older women and their style in the fashion industry. 

Philo's pared-back personal style and cool demeanour created a cult following which meant the bows she took at the end of her shows were as highly anticipated as the collections themselves. When she wore a pair of Adidas Stan Smith trainers at the end of the Spring Summer 2011 show, they became a fashion must-have within months. To this day, they endure as a quiet statement of thoughtful style. Subtle style ticks beloved of a certain tribe of fashionable women, like tucking hair into polo necks, originated with Philo.

Phoebe Philo wearing the Stan Smiths which sparked a mass trendCredit:Wireimage

As Victoria Beckham evolved her design label from its initial tight edit of bodycon dresses, her collections frequently nodded to the Celine look with critics drawing comparisons between her designs and Celine's streamlined blazers, wide-legged trousers and relaxed silk shirts. Beckham has also been a regular advocate of the hair tucking thing. 

Bags are the lifeblood of any design house and Philo succeeded in introducing several styles which were catnip to Celine acolytes. The small cross-body Trio is a sleek new classic beloved of women who might usually reject the notion of an It bag while the wing-sided Phantom is devoid of overt branding but has become instantly recognisable. 

Celine in the Philo era has been as expensive as it looked- prices rarely dipped below £1000 and a good coat could cost upwards of £3000. But there were plenty of ways to 'get the look' on the high street. Intepretations of Celine catwalk pieces, from abstract-print dresses to high-vamp heels, would appear in Zara or Topshop within weeks of appearing on the catwalk while the likes of Cos and Joseph offered the same luxuriously simple look at a fraction of the cost. 

Joan Didion for Celine

Beyond her covetable designs and personal aesthetic, Philo represented a new era of the female designer- a woman designing for women, and placing her role as mother as highly as that of creative director. Her contract at Celine was negotiated to allow her to spend time with her children and the Autumn 2012 show was cancelled to relieve pressure when she was expecting her third child. 

“Working with Céline has been an exceptional experience for me these last 10 years," Philo said in a statement seen by WWD.  "I am grateful to have worked with an incredibly talented and committed team and I would like to thank everyone along the way who has been part of the collaborations and conversations… it’s been amazing.” She will show her last collection at Paris fashion week in March.

A look from Celine's SS18 showCredit:AFP

The fashion industry rumour mill has pointed to 44-year-old Philo as a likely successor to Christopher Bailey at Burberry but, according to WWD, she 'will not work for another label in the near future'. That may not rule her out at Burberry though, as Bailey is set to continue working with the company in some capacity until the end of 2018. 

When Philo, whose star had risen during her five-years creative director at Chloe between 2001 and 2006, was appointed to revive Celine in 2008, the house had barely been a presence on the fashion scene since Michael Kors' tenure in the Nineties. LVMH, the conglomerate which owns the house, transformed working practices and moved the atelier to from Paris to London to accommodate Philo's desire to be based with her family. 

Although financial results for Celine alone are not available, Philo is thought to have helped fuel a rise in sales from €200 million to more than €700 million. According to insiders, Philo has been less present at Celine's headquarters over the past year, allowing her design team to take a more prominent role. Whether they will continue to design in her spirit or be led by a new tastemaking personality remains to be seen. But Philo will be hard to beat. 

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