Last month, cult designer Phoebe Philo’s eponymous label hit the market. The LVMH-backed brand, whose arrival had been hyped since before COVID-19, was long-awaited. There was very little fanfare— no runways, no stores, no pre-launch lookbook, not even a statement released alongside the collection. If her further collections operate in the same way, Phoebe Philo is going to be a brand for extremely stylish and in-the-know women who are able to afford $11,000 trousers. The brand harkened comparisons to The Row (Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s luxury brand best known for making wildly expensive elevated basics loved by the coolest women in New York) upon its first drop, but there is something about the design that is decidedly Phoebe Philo.
Phoebe Philo, the woman, is most famous for her work at Celine. Philo-era Celine is sought-after; the clothes and bags still fetch retail price or above on secondhand retailers. Phoebe Philo and her adoring fans helped shape the way women dressed in the 2010s. She was revered for the way she understood the female form; her construction was both impeccable and considerate of women’s bodies. Her work is also memorable; Philo’s employment of Joan Didion as the face of Celine’s S/S15 campaign spawned iconic imagery, and is still being reimagined as a marketing tactic (Jonathan Anderson casting Maggie Smith for Loewe certainly comes to mind). There has been a hole in the womenswear world since her departure from Celine in 2018. However, Philo’s Celine years were not without criticism; the designer was called out in 2013 for her reluctance to hire models of colour by supermodel Iman.
The collection itself is Philo to a T. It’s refined, cool, and inaccessible. The collection is only 150 pieces, of which no more than 100 were made of each piece. The average browser may find it exorbitantly priced and exceedingly simple, but Philo fanatics will salivate over the construction and tailoring. Some standouts are the hand-combed pieces— while the pants conjure up images of Mr. Tumnus, the skirt and dress add a disheveled edge to the office-ready collection. Philo, beloved for her accessories at Celine (she created it-bag after it-bag), introduces slouchy bags in leather that are both carefree and mean business. Her trousers, always a highlight of previous Celine and Chloé collections, do not disappoint here; turn a pair of perfectly tailored twill trousers around and you will find a zipper up each leg from the hem to the waistband. More suggestive than sexy, they would pair perfectly with a silk scarf top that looks like something you would whisk around yourself on your way out the door but is in actuality attached to a bodysuit to make sure the piece stays within Philo’s realm of practical design.
Philo is picking up where she left off at Celine, while also trying to capture an audience 10-15 years younger than her original customer base. A sterling silver choker made of the word “MUM” repeating was a younger addition, while the demure club loafers (with and without fringe) seem to appeal to the more mature consumer. Once the initial sticker-shock wore off (seriously, what else did anyone expect?), the Philophiles had a field day. As of November 7th, only a few sizes of anything remain. If you’re looking for a hand combed price-upon-ask coat, you’re in luck. If you are looking for a more… wearable piece of Phoebe Philo tailoring, you’re going to have to wait until A2, the brand’s presumed second collection, drops (most likely in the spring, although the brand has not announced any plans for regular collection drops). The brand’s collection provides the women Philo had abandoned since 2018 with an updated blueprint of how to look, well, chic. It will be interesting to see if and how Philo’s brand stands out in a sea of designers peddling the look that she pioneered.