Taylor Swift has her Swifties, Justin Bieber his Beliebers and Phoebe Philo has her Philophiles – it says everything about the rapture surrounding the Paris-born designer that her fandom comes with its own moniker. So it is, two years after announcing a comeback, that Philo has confirmed the first collection from her eponymous label will launch on 30 October.
A Central Saint Martins graduate, Philo has been missing from the landscape ever since she left her role at the Parisian brand Celine (when it was Céline) in 2018.
Making her mark both at Céline , where she was the creative director for a decade, and Chloé, where she took over from Stella McCartney after the latter left to set up her own label, Philo became known for designing with the “female gaze” in mind – from polo necks to sensible shoes.
Her simple, elegant clothes were received with adulation by women of an understated sartorial inclination. She put women in suits, had the author Joan Didion feature in a Céline campaign at the age of 80, and was the first designer to take maternity leave while in a top job.
Philo’s label – the first time she has had her own brand – is backed with a minority stake from LVMH, the luxury French conglomerate that counts Louis Vuitton and Celine among its brands. It is hoped it will enjoy the same commercial success that she brought to Céline, where sales grew fourfold to an estimated €750m-€800m a year.
It has been a long time coming, with anticipation brewing ever since its inception was announced in July 2021. In February this year, an account for the designer appeared on Instragram, quickly accumulating tens of thousands of followers despite not having a single post. In July her site opened for registrations – the all-black homepage featuring the single sentence: “Register here for news and further updates.” Philo said at the time that she was “very much looking forward to being back in touch with my audience and people everywhere”.
Known for her quiet, thoughtful designs, this latest venture comes at an opportune moment in some ways – high-end, low-key “stealth wealth” is all the buzz in fashion; now spotted everywhere, from private jets to your local bus stop. An aesthetic that Philo pioneered, it will be interesting to see how she brings a (re)freshed perspective to a look that is particularly prescient now.
Trends in fashion may be short-lived, but Philo’s designs have managed to remain relevant. Plus, they have their tentacles in so many of the styles that are now mainstream – the ubiquity of Birkenstocks, for one.
Unusually for the fickle world of fashion, being out of the spotlight has done Philo no harm. Her archival designs sell for four figures on resale sites and her name is still whispered with reverence. She is also that rare thing – a designer who, despite not courting the limelight, is well known and well respected, both on the front row and far beyond.