Few designers manage to dictate the sartorial choices of a generation. Phoebe Philo is one of them. The Chloé veteran has nearly single-handedly managed to influence the wardrobe of women of a range of ages since she took the helm of Céline in 2008. From bona fide Céline devotees – or “Philophiles,” as the New York Times coined them in 2012 – to those shopping the fast fashion versions (Zara has been known to constantly reproduce a large number of Céline looks), Philo’s touch is undeniable and it is everywhere.
In light of the announcement that she will step down from her post as creative director of Celine in March, here as a look at some of what Philo has said over the years about first taking on the chief creative role at Céline, building a wardrobe, her debut Céline campaign and more …
On being a designer: I feel like a working designer. I hope I was hired to be that, not a ‘face.’ Also, I entered the industry when this hideous instant-celebrity culture was growing up, where you could be famous for absolutely nothing. I could have gone to every opening and every event, but I so dislike it. It felt like slavery, signing up to a hideous life of gossip columns. I’d rather not. – Vogue, 2005
On her first Celine campaign: I wanted to make the product the star. It was not about lifestyle. It was about clothes: Boom. This is it. No smokescreens. It’s very old-fashioned as an approach, I guess. It was very important to me that with Céline we went step by step, with no giant strategic plan. I feel very much that I am a human being, with human limitations, and I need to respect that. – FT, October 2010
On starting at Céline: I felt quite clear from the offset about what I wanted to do in terms of fashion – or certainly what I didn’t want. I wanted something that felt honest, that was a mixture of what I want to wear and how I want to live. I felt it needed to be quite simple and very real. – FT, October 2010
On shopping/creating a wardrobe: I never had a massive desire to buy clothes. I liked to customise the clothes I already had or was given when I was younger. If I didn’t like them that much, I made them how I wanted them to be. This is always a bit difficult to talk about, but I don’t really like shopping. I don’t get a great feeling out of it. What I love is this idea of a wardrobe. The idea that we’re establishing certain signatures and updating them, that a change in colour or fabric is enough. I do think that the world doesn’t need many more frivolous bits and bobs that end up left in cupboards or landfills. – The Independent, July 2011
On empowering women: I hope when women wear Céline they feel confident and strong. I guess there is a bit of a political statement behind Céline, which is that we should be teaching young girls to feel good … I am not a big fan of women being sexualised through clothes, as you can probably tell from my work. I have no problem with a woman wearing anything as long as she has chosen to wear it for herself. But I do think there are too many images of women that are sexualised and too many examples of women dressing for other people and disempowering themselves in the process. – Vogue Festival 2014
On being labelled a “minimalist”: What does that mean? All I ever said was that it was clean, stripped back and reduced – and that’s not the same thing at all. Of course, I was reacting to the world. I’m a human being. My eyes are open. I try to have my feet on the ground. I guess I’m informed by lots of things, but it wasn’t a political statement. It wasn’t anything to do with the recession. It felt right instinctively. It was what I wanted to say. – The Independent, July 2011