Ahead of the launch of Phoebe Philo’s new brand… Why FARRAH STORR signed up for fashion’s most bonkers waiting list!
- Former editor of Elle magazine is sure Philo’s new label will be worth the wait
- READ MORE: She became a big fashion name despite hating publicity and now, with her own label about to debut, PHOEBE PHILO remains a fascinating contradiction, says former Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman
A few months ago I did the unthinkable and put myself down on a waiting list for a waiting list. (Basically, you had to give your email in order to be alerted to when the waiting list even opened.
This, for a fashion brand I have never seen nor know anything about. I don’t even know when it will be launching or even what I’ll be able to buy.
You may think I’m mad, but almost every other fashionable woman I know has done it. Are we all crazy? Not exactly.
You see this is the waiting list for designer Phoebe Philo’s new label, scheduled to launch this month. No, I don’t know when.
Once upon a time I was the Editor of Elle magazine, one of the world’s most exclusive style bibles (now I work in the world of tech which is quite different from a fashion point of view).
A look from the Celine show at Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Spring/Summer 2017 when Phoebe Philo was at the helm of the label
But even those still on the ‘inside’ know very little about what Philo has in store.
And so it is all whispers and crossed fingers and toes on the front row — will she bring back the beautiful asymetric cuts we all loved when she ran Celine? Or will she do something altogether different? Oh God, please don’t let her do anything too different!
The style press and bloggers and influencers, and basically any woman who has had even a mild interest in fashion over the past ten years, is waiting . . . and waiting.
The fashionazzi and the plebians are all signing themselves up to what is, for now, a complete fashion void.
Phoebe Philo is the woman who, along with Stella McCartney, helped resurrect the fashion house of Chloe in the early Noughties, turning it from a fusty, haute bourgeoisie label into one of the hottest and most wearable designer brands on the planet.
But it was her work at the French fashion house Celine between 2008 and 2018 that truly changed women’s wardrobes.
Unbelievably, she was one of very few women running a major fashion house.
For her first collection, Resort 2010, she sent models down the catwalk in leather T-shirts the colour of creme caramel, billowing capes and wide-legged trousers that accommodated real women’s thighs.
A model wears a creation by Phoebe Philo for the Celine Fall-Winter 2014/2015 Ready-To-Wear collection show in Paris
It was simple, yes, but it was a real wardrobe — there was no ‘inspirational’ catwalk craziness.
These were clothes that could take a woman from a meeting to 8pm cocktails and she’d still be the most stylish (and comfortable) woman in the room.
I would trawl the internet and stalk the Celine outlet at Bicester Village to get myself a Philo wardrobe on the relative ‘cheap’.
I found a silk skirt from the spring/summer 2015 collection on eBay for £150, a pair of unworn navy loafers on Vestiaire Collective for £300 and an assortment of wardrobe-transforming pieces at the Bicester outlet, including a Sherlock Holmes-style trench, a much coveted Cabas tote and several pairs of ‘glove’ boots, named for the fact they literally fitted even the most bunioned of feet like a glove.
I will never forget having to give a speech to a roomful of people at the Oxford Union one autumn evening.
Stupidly, I had packed ‘smart’ jeans and, realising the error of my ways, hot-footed it over to Celine at Bicester Village to try and smarten up.
I came away with a beautiful tuxedo coat and a silk blouse that knotted around my neck with a giant, artistic bow.
As I stood on stage, I felt the most confident I had in years.
Celine’s spring 2010 show, designed by Phoebe Philo, featured beautiful asymmetric cuts
At Philo’s time at the helm of the fashion house, Celine’s sales quintupled. But it wasn’t just the clothes she created, no one was more stylish than Philo herself.
She is the woman who made wearing white ‘street’ trainers with everything fashionable. She transformed ‘Dad’ sandals into a veritable fashion craze.
She bounced around art gallery openings in smart trousers and New Balance trainers and made elongated shirt cuffs hanging out of jumpers deeply cool.
And then at the very top of her game, after ten whole years at Celine, she walked away leaving a giant fashion hole in her wake.
Many people, myself included, have had to turn to other brands to try to replicate the Philo formula.
For the beautiful asymmetric hems and smocked shirts Philo was famous for creating, I now head to Cos.
For those high-waisted, generous trousers that made everyone’s legs look ten inches longer, I rely on Me+Em which makes seriously good trousers for all shapes. (It also does Old Celine-esqe midi skirts, excellent when grounded by a pair of chunky ‘Dad’ sandals.)
If you have deep enough pockets, Swedish label Toteme will do you a wonderful trench coat reminiscent of Philo’s very best macs; while luxury label Rokh does impeccable blazers and deconstructed coats that evoke Old Celine’s early years.
Phoebe Philo sent models down the runway in deconstructed coats that have since been channeled by luxury label Rokh
Not surprising, given the label’s designer Rok Hwang used to work under Philo at Celine.
But the label that almost every fashion editor I know goes to for their Old Celine ‘hit’ is Matches’ own label called Raey, which does mannish shirts, chunky, oversized knits and lots of big comfy trousers.
If you head to the Matches designer sale online you can find an khaki rugby jumper for £198, while a slouchy cashmere blend knit is on sale at £118.
Elsewhere in the sale there’s a pair of chic wide-leg trousers in a wool and silk blend (£217) and a relaxed-fit shirt in a light denim linen (£198).
So what will Philo’s new label have in store for us?
The truth is no one knows. The entire brand is shrouded in secrecy. There is an Instagram account with 257k followers but no posts. And a website phoebephilo.com that offers nothing except a request for your email so you can ‘stay in touch’.
I can find no press office; no one who works there and no indication of what she may put out.
But one thing I do know, is that it will be worth the wait.
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