Remember Style dot com? I used to click through the runway looks eagerly. It’s all on Vogue runway now. This archive was an important part of my teen years; terse reviews on Comme, and Galliano collections as far back as the early 90s was my fashion education. I revisit the archive to look at old Celine collections from the past decade.
She’s a personal favourite and is often discussed in the fashion industry as opaque, idiosyncratic and seductive. Her commercial appeal is prized as much as her understanding of what women want. A number of it-bags and it girls later and she has reportedly raised Celine’s annual sales from €200 million to over €700 million. While LVMH do not break down these figures themselves, Bernard Arnault has said on record that his daughters’ work at Louis Vuitton but they all wear Celine.
The best designers challenge themselves. The collection is a result of a problem posed and solved. The problem may be abstract or technical. Phoebe Philo in her tenure at Celine was not this type of designer. She was and is an anti-intellectual intellectual. Philo uses airy fairy words like organic and feeling to describe her process. A Jeffree Bean reference was what everyone remembers from her Fall 2013 collection. It was a bittersweet moment, the play with tailoring was a whimsical but believable addition to the Celine vocabulary, but was overshadowed by accusations of plagiarism.
Phoebe Philo is a 40 something year old woman. She’s a mother who took years out between her role as creative director of Chloe and Celine, to focus on her family. It’s likely that she’ll take a few more years out of fashion now for the same reason. Her appeal is pervasive. Celine has a cult that encompasses posh old ladies to American rappers. The it Bag she created in the 00s for Chloe was called The Paddington. This large bag which supposedly made you look thinner, because of it’s size, injured a generation of ‘cool girls’. According to fashion journalist Lou Stoppard. It hurt to carry because of it’s weight.
Her appeal in Hip Hop was not an accident. Kanye West had a number of androgynous fashion moments that proved too jarring and too gay for his repressed peers and fans. One was the Givenchy skirt, which he came to regret. He reportedly tried to have the image of him in the skirt scrubbed from the internet. He also wore a Celine women’s blouse. Her appeal in Hip Hop was not about crossdressing or androgyny, it was about obscurity. It was about moving away from the flashy brands like Versace and Gucci that have come to be associated with rappers. Miuccia Prada enjoyed a similar privilege in the 90s. The Chinese mafia wore Prada for the same reason. It was chic and understated. The thing to do is to dress obscure so poor people don’t envy your money, they envy your taste level.
Whoever is appointed to follow Philo, should have what I call cult potential. Innovation in fashion is not just about clothes, it’s about everything around the clothes.
Glenn Martens (Y-Project)
Glenn Martens’ is a taste maker. That is what Celine under Philo was about. Philo’s sole ambition as a designer was to make a pair of trousers that made her bum look good. It wasn’t about a new way to do a sleeve. It was about seduction. Marten’s play with deconstruction doesn’t just create a look, he creates a fetish. People blame him for the current denim fetish, and even H&M’s infamous plastic trousers can be thought to have originated from his strange is sexy attitude. He’s making suits for Rihanna and winning awards, could he please be the new creative director of Celine?
He does what Vetement is doing, but with talent and an understanding of fashion history rivalled by few of his Parisian peers. His Spring 2018 collection showed a playful designer with commercial ambition too. Pleats, ruffles, creases and folds distort his dramatic silhouette. Rolled up sleeves are a ripple that runs though each look, which often come with his signature thigh high boots. His ever evolving thigh high boot obsession, in his latest collection, gave us a strappy heel with floral vines wrapped around each leg. He has that viral, pent up feel of Philo’s Celine. Something visceral. If he becomes the new creative director of Celine look out for unconventional eroticism and high concept drama.
She shares the third floor of Dover street market with Comme des Garcon Comme des Garcon, also known as Comme Comme, Rei’s more wearable line. Her ruffled and light airy tulle dresses, often candy coloured, give us a sugar rush but come with a bite. Godard is known for her no nonsense – princess dresses.
She was a fan of John Galliano growing up and her work seems to reflect it. Her dresses are fantastical but she doesn’t appreciate her work being called pretty. There is an integrity to what she does. Her play with construction is exciting, every season we are excited by the infinite ways she creates volume. She has cultivated a very vivid character. Something Phoebe Philo is often praised for. She’s won over the fashion industry with her hyper-feminine to the point of surrealism persona. And although she’s done a handful of collections, she’s made her mark. I remember seeing her graduation collection from the prestigious Central Saint Martins, she really made an impression. She could create a Celine world that rivals what Alessandro Michele has done for Gucci. Something captivating but also accessible to all taste levels.
Simon Porte Jacquemus
Jacquemus began his career working at the Comme des Garcons store in Paris, but he’s a fashion industry darling now, with his own namesake label.
His Spring/Summer 2018 collection came with a flowery theme. He was inspired by his mother in the south of France. His handling of proportions holds your attention; shrunken dresses that embrace, fitted on top, seductively draped below. It was a move away from his usual boxy silhouette. It was thoughtful and confident. Each of his collections have a title in his words “Like a french film.” He is the current favourite for the head role at Celine and it makes sense. He combines a commercial mindedness with an avant guard attitude.
He has the technical and conceptual brilliance that marks a great designer. We’re talking about the Cristobal Balenciagas of the world. The type of designer to give you tie dye in geometric blocks, when he’s playing with the themes of chaos and control.
On a commercial note, he is a menswear designer. Sophisticated and sensual tailoring pieces are essential to the Celine woman. And Craig Green can deliver that. A little too sophisticated but that’s never a bad thing. Green is not Phoebe Philo 2.0, we’d all love to have another Phoebe Philo, but that’s not happening. So going in the opposite direction could be for the best. Raf Simons’ appointment at Dior comes to mind. Green as the new creative director of Celine would make front row straighten up in anticipation.
The Business of Fashion