Even if the rumors had been circulating for months, Phoebe Philo's departure from Céline will still resonate like shock to fashionistas across the globe. In nearly ten years at the French label, Philo has established herself as one of the most influential designers of this generation and a champion of women who wanted to dress decidedly of the moment while staying above the currents of trends and marketing. WWD, which broke the news on Friday, reports that Philo has no plans to jump ship to another label at the moment, and may instead take time for to concentrate on her family. The London-based designer has three children between the ages of five and twelve; she had previously taken time away from the business when she departed Chloé over a decade ago.
Rumors of Philo's departure form Céline had been whispered about since at least 2015, but heightened in October with reports that the decision had been made and that the label's parent company, LVMH, had already begun the process of interviewing potential successors (though, no decision has been made on the front, and after Philo's final show early next year, in March, the house's design team will handle things in the interim). Some speculation had emerged that Philo may succeed Christopher Bailey at Burberry (after all, her former Céline chief executive Marco Gobetti had recently taken the same post at the quintessential British brand), but it seems that was just merely that. Though perhaps that's not a surprise. Philo's exit from the house echoes her departure from Chloé in 2006, after which she took two years off before taking the reigns at Céline. Similarly, she'll leave the label both at the height of sales and the height of critical acclaim.
Philo first came to fashion prominence while working as the design assistant to her former Central Saint Martins classmate Stella McCartney at Chloé. After McCartney left to start her own label in 2001, Philo quietly took over the house herself and, in a few short years, established herself as a necessary and singular voice in fashion.
Philo's work seems to thread a thin needle quite unlike anyone else. Her clothes can both be described as androgynous and yet decidedly feminine. They feel both current and yet transcendent so that one can imagine wearing her pieces again in ten years time. It's no wonder Joan Didion functioned as such a now iconic avatar for the brand in a Juergen Teller-lensed ad campaign in 2015. With Philo, the clothes never threatened to overtake the wearer. The Céline woman, as she imagined her, has far too much of a sense of self and purpose for that. Indeed, the aesthetic even translates into her shoes.
“I find that very attractive,” Philo once told W about her preference for "tom boyish" shoes. “They’ve got their feet on the ground. I can sometimes find the image of a woman in an extreme high heel exciting, but I also love practicality. I can relate to being completely in control of what you need to get done.”