Living under a rock for the past few years wouldn’t excuse a person with internet connectivity from being ignorant of Phoebe Philo’s foray into self-branding. The designer, formerly of Celine and Chloe, is credited with igniting our obsession with quiet luxury through her tactile, intelligent, androgynous take on minimalist dressing. “Real clothes for real women” her fans (self-described “Philophiles”) decreed, worshipping Philo and her designs to cult-like status.
When the British designer announced she would be departing her post as creative director of Celine in 2017, women the world over wailed in disbelief. ‘Who would curate their wardrobes now?’ they asked, establishing Instagram accounts and re-sale sites in her name.
The answer appeared in 2021. Philo, as herself, would take up the mantle – buoyed by support from the LVMH group.
“Her first namesake collection is possibly the most hyped, most anticipated, most gossiped-about new line from a formerly beloved name … well, ever,” writes The New York Times’ fashion director and chief fashion critic Vanessa Friedman in her review of the launch.
Two years since the announcement, Philo’s eponymous collection has landed. Within 24 hours nearly all stock from the 150-piece edit has sold out. With such hotly anticipated fanfare, does it live up to the hype? The better question might be: does it even matter?
Presented via a sparsely designed website, Philo’s first edit, A1, is both relaxed and raw, with pieces ranging in size from XS to XL. Interesting trousers meet draped tops, leather jackets and coat dresses. There are forgiving cuts, strong tailoring, a gold “MUM” necklace priced at approximately $7,850. Philo has picked up where she left off, continuing the conversation she started at Celine – speaking to women who know who they are and what they want and can pay to get it. In fact, they have. Most pieces sold out within the first 60 seconds of being live.
Philo could have, should have, anticipated the click frenzy and ordered larger stock runs. But scarcity is precisely her appeal. Her website features no standard ‘About’ page. The brand’s Instagram (boasting 343,000 followers to date) features no posts. Customers were limited to purchasing only one of any piece on the website. In an industry ravenous for content and context, Philo remains staunchly enigmatic, letting her clothes speak for her.
So, again, do they live up to the hype? Sure. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy at this point. And does it matter? Again, sure it does. While most brands fetishise the young, Philo’s garments appear geared towards a more mature clientele (not unlike The Row), somehow making ageing feel like a gift, not a curse.
Even if this was the only metric for success, it’s undoubtedly a win. In Philo’s vision of the future, we trust.