While some dedicate their lives to a single issue, others optimize theirs by conquering multiple challenges.
As a fashion designer, entrepreneur, and environmentalist, Phoebe Philo embodies this reinvention. She has also found a way to use her multiple talents to promote feminism in the fashion industry. Indeed, since her debut in the industry, Phoebe Philo has been a catalyst for women’s empowerment. In an era when (male) pioneers of the industry were capitalizing on the sexualization of women, she was able to compete and even excel.
Born on January 1, 1973, she made significant contributions to the fashion industry as the former creative director of Céline from 2008 to 2018 and Chloé from 2001 to 2006. She was born in Paris to British parents and raised in Harrow, London, with her younger siblings. She received a sewing machine from her parents for her 14th birthday, which sparked her passion for customizing clothes.
Philo graduated from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London in 1996 and quickly joined Chloé as Stella McCartney’s first assistant for ready-to-wear collection in Paris. She succeeded McCartney as creative director in 2001, where she is credited with introducing babydoll dresses and heavy leather accessories such as the Paddington bag. Philo also became the first designer at a major fashion brand to take an extended maternity leave during her time at Chloé.
After leaving Chloé in 2006, Philo explored launching her own line, but the timing was not right. In 2008, LVMH offered her a job as creative director and board member of Céline, which she accepted on the condition of continuing to work in London while showing in Paris. During her tenure at Céline, Philo created several popular “it” bags, including the Trapeze and Luggage totes and the slim Trio cross-body. She also collaborated with artist Dan Graham to create Showing off the body (2016), a glass S-shaped pavilion at the Tennis Club de Paris, where the runway show took place during Paris Fashion Week in 2016. Philo’s minimalist aesthetic, clean lines, and tonal color palette redefined what women aspire to wear, making Céline a critical part of each season’s fashion dialogue. In 2017, after ten years at Céline, Philo stepped down as creative director after the Pre-Fall 2018 collection.
Few designers have had as significant an impact on 21st-century fashion as Phoebe Philo, who transformed both Chloé and Céline into major brands while working for these labels. Her departure from these brands was deeply felt by the fashion world. Philo’s success as a female designer in the luxury fashion industry, which is dominated by male creative directors and often by the male gaze, was remarkable. She had a rare gift for synthesizing the aspirational with the everyday, thus defining the modern look of a generation. When she started at Céline in 2009, she said, “It was better for me to work on an idea of a wardrobe rather than on a marked trend. I worked hard to create things that stand the test of time.” Despite this, Philo launched many trends. By building a ‘common’ identity of the contemporary 21st-century woman, she reintroduced Celine as a dominating brand.
Building on this success, she has announced a brand under her own name, supported by the world’s largest luxury group LVMH, where she intends to incorporate sustainability as a necessity in the most polluting industry of our society.
Indeed, Phoebe Philo has finally announced the debut date for her eponymous brand. After departing from Celine in 2018, Philo has been the subject of numerous rumors about her next move in the fashion industry. In June 2021, she announced that she would launch her own brand, but the original launch date of January 2022 came and went without any updates. However, Philo’s Instagram account recently revealed that her inaugural collection will be revealed online in September 2023 on her website, phoebephilo.com. It’s uncertain whether Philo will stage fashion shows or adopt a see-now, buy-now model. The statement also hints at the possibility of releasing collections in limited quantities. Regardless, her fans are eagerly anticipating the immaculate and inspiring clothing that Philo is known for.
Phoebe Philo is bold, driven, and capable of striving for change: she is feminism.