Photo: Instagram/@ phoebephilodiary
After a week of couture debuts, comes this news: Phoebe Philo is launching a new brand under her own name. LVMH, her home during her Céline years, has made a minority investment. First reported in the Business of Fashion but long rumored about, especially in the wake of her appearance on the Andam Fashion Jury on July 1, today’s announcement is set to shake fashion out of its pandemic torpor.
Few designers have had a larger impact on 21st century fashion—Philo turned Chloé and Céline into It brands during her tenures at those labels. And no one has been missed as much post-exit. Not long after Philo left Céline in 2017, an Instagram account with the handle @oldceline sprung up and editors and stylists lament her departure to this day. During her eight years at the house, Philo wardrobed many of the industry’s most powerful female arbiters, and a few important dudes, too; Kanye West at Coachella in the printed silk pajama shirt from spring 2011 played its own important role in Céline mania.
Philo was a female success story in a luxury fashion business dominated not just by male creative directors but often also by the male gaze. She had an uncommon knack for synthesizing the aspirational with the everyday, and in the process she defined the modern look of a generation. At her 2009 Céline debut she said, “it felt better for me to work on an idea of a wardrobe than too much trend. I worked hard to create things that stand the test of time.” That said, Philo set trends aplenty. For #uglyshoes, for championing unconventional muses like Joan Didion, and for following her own intuition, even when it was defiantly weird—maybe especially so then.
Naturally, where Philo went, so did many of her peers. Seasons after her departure her collections remain templates for designers across the fashion spectrum. I was recently reminded that the rubber rain boots we now see everywhere first made their appearance in her final collection for the Céline, circa pre-fall 2018. In fact, her three-year absence (roughly the same amount of time between her Chloé and Céline gigs) has only served to strengthen her reputation. One reason why: A whole class of designers that she trained are now making their own impacts: Bottega Veneta’s Daniel Lee worked under Philo, as did emerging names like New York’s Peter Do and London’s Rok Hwang.
The announcement has broader implications, as well. Since the mid-’90s, fashion has been dominated by heritage brands. Philo and her peers came up, landed plum jobs at big, if sometimes flagging, companies, and spent productive years making over those labels. Philo did it not once, but twice. Building a new business as the industry works to reestablish itself in the wake of the pandemic may prove extra challenging, even with her name recognition. But it’s worth remembering that Philo’s Céline emerged from the economic crisis of 2008, sweeping away the excesses of aughts fashion with a confident new minimalism. If she can tap into similar instincts now, she has an even bigger following to bank on.
The launch of the Phoebe Philo brand could turn out to be an inflection point. That she’ll influence the look of fashion in the years to come seems a given, given her bona fides, but the model that she’s establishing—a 21st century name, a 21st century brand—could prove pivotal as well. We’ve been asking ourselves what fashion will be post-Covid. Philo may have just supplied us with an answer: The 2020s could become a new era of independents.
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Originally published on Vogue.com
Photo: Instagram/@ phoebephilodiary
Phoebe Philo is returning to fashion with an independent, namesake house — and with LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton as a minority investor.
The acclaimed British designer told WWD she would create clothing and accessories “rooted in exceptional quality and design,” and would divulge more details about her new brand in January 2022.
WWD broke the news in February 2020 that Philo had started planning a new collection and interviewing designers. According to market sources, she has had a small team working in London since late last year.
One of the most revered — and bankable — designers of her generation, Philo most recently engineered a spectacular brand rejuvenation during a 10-year tenure at Celine, one of about 75 brands controlled by LVMH. Season after season, she minted womanly, modernist clothing and distinctive handbags, accruing an intensely loyal fan base.
“Being in my studio and making once again has been both exciting and incredibly fulfilling,” Philo said in a brief statement. “I am very much looking forward to being back in touch with my audience and people everywhere. To be independent, to govern and experiment on my own terms is hugely significant to me.”
However, she has brought on a powerful silent partner in LVMH. The size of the French group’s minority stake could not immediately be learned, and financial terms were not disclosed.
It is understood Philo is the only other shareholder in the venture.
Courtesy of Phoebe Philo
“I have had a very constructive and creative working relationship with LVMH for many years. So it is a natural progression for us to reconnect on this new project. I have greatly appreciated discussing new ideas with Bernard Arnault and Delphine Arnault and I am delighted to be embarking on this adventure with their support,” she added.
Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH, called Philo “one of the most talented designers of our time.”
“We have known her and appreciated her for a long time. Phoebe contributed to the success of the group through her magnificent creations over several years,” he said. “With this in mind, I am very happy to partner with Phoebe on her entrepreneurial adventure and wish her great success.”
Given Philo’s cult-like following, her return to designing collections and launching a new brand is bound to have specialty retailers salivating — and some designers fretting. Many brands big and small have tried to seize her crown, and recruit her devotees, with varying degrees of success.
The designer has been keeping a low profile since exiting Celine at the end of 2017. In one of her first public projects, she signed on to be a juror for the 2021 ANDAM awards, which were presented in Paris earlier this month. (Philo did her duties via video conferencing from London due to ongoing travel restrictions related to the pandemic.)
It is unusual, though not unprecedented, for LVMH to back a new brand. Its core expertise lies in animating heritage brands like Louis Vuitton, Dior and Fendi with buzzy designers, celebrity ambassadors, retail razzmatazz and spectacular press and client events.
In 2019, it launched a fashion brand for Rihanna, following the blockbuster success of Fenty by Rihanna beauty products. The start-up came up against the coronavirus crisis and LVMH and the pop star paused the luxury maison last February, while roaring ahead with Savage x Fenty lingerie. Prior to that, LVMH famously set up a couture house for Christian Lacroix in 1987, and sold it to Falic Group in 2005.
Minority stakes are not usually the norm either for the French luxury giant, though that’s the case with Jonathan Anderson’s London-based fashion house JW Anderson, for example. LVMH took a 46 percent stake in 2013 in tandem with hiring the designer as creative director of Spanish leather goods house Loewe.
It is understood Philo has kept in close contact with the Arnault family, particularly Delphine, and will continue to have access to the group’s brain trust and real-estate muscle as she develops her indie venture.
The distribution plan and other details could not immediately be learned, though Philo had long shunned online commerce, preferring boutiques filled with marble plinths and large plants when she was at Celine. She also worked with prestigious specialty retailers, including Le Bon Marché, Selfridges and Dover Street Market
A graduate of London’s Central Saint Martins fashion school, Philo was classmates with Stella McCartney and worked with her when McCartney launched her own collection after graduation. Philo followed McCartney to Chloé in 1997 and took the top job in 2001 when McCartney left to set up her own fashion house in a joint venture with Gucci Group.
With her striking personal style, Philo succeeded in accelerating Chloé’s rejuvenation and catapulting it into the high-margin leather goods business. She became known for fashions that deftly blended masculine elements like trousers and such feminine fare as frilly blouses. During her tenure, Chloé’s look was widely emulated by fast-fashion chains and she created hit handbags like the Paddington and Silverado.
She resigned from Chloé in 2006 for personal reasons, citing a wish to spend more time with her young children.
Three years later, after lengthy discussions with LVMH about launching a namesake brand, Philo wound up at the helm of Céline, which offered an immediate platform for her designs, since the brand had boutiques in top locations around the world and factories for leather goods.
Philo debuted a more fashion-forward, minimalist aesthetic at Céline, tinged with artsy touches, and her collections exceeded all revenue expectations and won wide acclaim, despite her reticence about e-commerce and an arms-length policy with the press.
She was succeeded at Celine by Hedi Slimane, who dropped the accent in the label’s name and reoriented the brand toward retro-tinged, bourgeois French chic.
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Lalisa Manoban, known simply as Lisa to Blackpink’s legion of fans, has joined the jury of the 2021 ANDAM awards and will help select the next winner of the prestigious French fashion prize.
The Thai music sensation headlines a star-studded list of guest jurors that also includes Chinese singer Chris Lee and fashion designers Kerby Jean-Raymond and Phoebe Philo, the latter making her first appearance on the fashion scene since exiting Celine at the end of 2017.
Revealing its 2021 guest jurors exclusively to WWD, ANDAM unfurled a diverse list of creative types that reflects a changing topography of influence as the traditional fashion gatekeepers — magazine editors and retailers — yields to photographers, educators, business disruptors, stylists, entertainers, digital enterprises and next-gen media personalities.
The other jury members are French singer and actress Lou Doillon; photographer Juergen Teller and his creative partner Dovile Drizyte; researcher and educator Linda Loppa; serial entrepreneur Natalie Massenet; Amazon’s head of fashion direction Sally Singer; stylist Marie Chaix; stylist and fashion editor Suzanne Koller of M Le Monde, and the editors Chioma Nnadi of Vogue.com and Pierre M’Pelé of The Perfect Magazine and the Instagram account Pam Boy.
“Fashion is being nourished by new influences,” said Cédric Charbit, chief executive officer of Balenciaga and the president of this year’s ANDAM jury. “It’s a new era wherever you look.”
Charbit decided to fling the door open wide and make the jury more varied, “progressive,” and international, which should further fan interest in the 32nd edition of the annual design competition, which recently upped the grand prize amount to 300,000 euros from 250,000 euros.
“The jury is coming from different horizons, and represent the different facets and faces of creativity today,” Charbit said in an interview. “It’s the only way that we give a good and proper reading of something that’s modern and conscious for a talent for tomorrow.
“The jury members are inspiring for all of us, because of their accomplishments, of course, but also because in one way or another each one has marked or changed his or her time and potentially the generations to come,” Charbit added. “I really want to thank them because I think it’s a very elegant gesture that you say, ‘Yes, I want to be part of this.’”
“We are super proud, and humbled in front of such a panel,” said ANDAM president Guillaume Houzé, who oversees communications for Galeries Lafayette Group and is president of the Galeries Lafayette Foundation.
As jury president, Charbit will serve as a mentor to the 2021 winner for one year “to help them scale their creative processes, strengthen their business and try to build international capacities,” Houzé explained. “So this level of commitment from a prominent figure in the luxury industry really helps.”
Houzé said ANDAM was one of the first fashion prizes to add a yearlong mentorship, starting in 2011 when luxury executive Ralph Toledano, now president of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, was paired with that year’s winner Anthony Vaccarello, now the creative director of Saint Laurent.
“This is crucial to success. Money might give some wiggle room to run operations, but mentoring is really what can help young creative directors build their business vision and culture,” Houzé explained.
In his view, mentors can help young creatives sharpen their skills and capabilities across the supply chain, including digitalization, along with their sustainability credentials and soft skills. “Nothing great can be achieved today without humility,” he noted.
For its 2020 edition, which unfurled amid the early days of the coronavirus crisis, ANDAM pivoted to a “family fund award” focused on former winners and finalists, ultimately granting 200,000 euros to Marine Serre and 150,000 euros to Glenn Martens’ Y/Project.
Houzé said it was important to return to the fundamentals of ANDAM. “We may have spent almost a year behind our computer screens, but Paris remains the beating heart of the industry,” he said. “So it was essential for us to show the world that we could adapt and move on and get past this.”
Charbit said creativity remains a key criteria, and candidates are valued for being sustainable, commercial, different, inclusive, diverse and modern, as well as being an agent of change and being a “progressive leader” in fashion.
Given the travel restrictions and other pandemic-related challenges, much of the jury work will be done remotely, which Charbit and Houzé characterized as beneficial, putting all members on an equal footing no matter where they are in the world.
“It’s going to be easier for everybody,” Charbit said. “We all had a chance also to work remotely lately and to be able to assess a project in the calm and in your own environment makes a lot of sense.”
That said, Houzé held out hope that jurors and finalists can gather for the final deliberations and the announcement of the winner on July 1 in Paris. Organizers are eyeing a prestigious outdoor venue for what is usually a lively cocktail party and rare gathering of a broad cross-section of the industry.
Candidates are invited to apply online until April 27. Finalists are to be revealed at the end of May. Contenders for the grand prize can be of any nationality, but must own a French company or set one up during the same year as the receipt of the fellowship.
As reported, Sophie Delafontaine, artistic director at Longchamp, is to mentor the winner of the Pierre Bergé Prize, which focuses on young French companies and is worth 100,000 euros; Giovanna Engelbert, Swarovski’s creative director, the winner of the Fashion Accessories Prize, which comes with a sum of 50,000 euros, and Yann Gozlan, founder and president of Creative Valley, the Innovation Prize, also valued at 50,000 euros.
Created in 1989 by Nathalie Dufour with the support of the French Ministry of Culture and the DEFI and with the late Pierre Bergé as president, ANDAM — the French acronym for National Association of the Development of the Fashion Arts — has been a springboard for designers who would go on to achieve international recognition.
Past winners include Martin Margiela, Viktor & Rolf, Christophe Lemaire and Jeremy Scott.
ANDAM is also supported by large corporate sponsors, which now include Balenciaga, Chanel, Chloé, Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Galeries Lafayette, Google, Hermès, Kering, Lacoste, Longchamp, LVMH, L’Oréal Paris, OTB, Premiere Classe, Saint Laurent, Swarovski and Tomorrow. Executives from most of those firms comprise permanent members of the jury.
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