Back in the Game: Philo Returns

Phoebe Philo's first designs for Celine will be unveiled in June.

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Celine declined to comment on the reorganization, but it is understood efforts will be made to place affected employees elsewhere within the luxury group, which includes such brands as Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Givenchy and Emilio Pucci.

Meanwhile, Philo confirmed she has already traveled to Tokyo with members of her team on a fact-finding mission: primarily to look at “architecture and graphic concepts” and reacquaint herself with a market she had not visited for eight years. “I was more interested in how fashion stood in stores,” she said. “Plus the street style in Japan is great, just looking at people.”

The designer, who will have creative purview over store design and advertising, said she has yet to choose her collaborators for boutiques or advertising. Yet she spoke freely about what attracted her to the Celine project.

Philo counts a vintage Celine skirt and blouse in her wardrobe, and from what she’s seen of other clothes in the archive, “they’re very practical, beautiful, accessible pieces.

“There’s nothing historical that needs to be reinvented. It feels like a blank slate,” she said of a house founded in 1945 by Celine Vipiana and based initially on shoes and, later, chic sportswear. “It feels like it can be quite pure and fresh and talking about now, not harking back to an era that was iconic….It’s a brand that’s very much for women, designed by a woman. That didn’t feel forced.”

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 good looks and striking personal style, Philo succeeded in accelerating Chloé’s rejuvenation and catapulting it into the high-margin leather goods business. But she resigned for personal reasons in 2006, mainly to spend more time with her children and her husband, art dealer Max Wigram.

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