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Phoebe Philo & Her 'Female Gaze' Approach to Women's Fashion

A look into the Phoebe Philo era of Céline

Who is Phoebe Philo and why is her work loved by all?

The recent announcement of the designer returning into the spotlight with her own label (suspected name- Phoebe Philo Studio) has left thousands of women across the world thrilled. The LVMH-backed project is due to make a further buzz in 2022, which is when the brand is due to launch. The British but Parisian-raised designer began her studies in fashion attending Central Saint Martins in London and graduating with a degree in Womenswear. However, her passion for fashion was instilled in her from a young age, illustrated by the fact that she 'designed her school uniform at 11 and received her first sewing machine at 14 years of age.’

Soon after graduating she became assistant to Stella McCartney who was named creative director at french luxury house Chloé. Shortly after McCartney leaves Chloé to develop her personal brand in 2001, Philo takes the reins of the house where she initiates her long line of adored contemporary and minimalistic take on design. In fact, her time spent at Chloé revives the brand and increases its sales by 40%.

After successfully flourishing the brand in terms of utilitarian feminine designs and developing it as the "Chanel of the generation", Philo decides to take a break in fashion and focuses on her personal life transferring back to London. However, she returns enthusiastically back on the podium chez Céline when she is elected creative director by LVMH in 2008 following the Michael Kors era. She, therefore, runs the artistic development of the brand for 10 years until the sad declaration of her departure in 2018 and the introduction of Hedi Slimane as the new creative director, who rebrands it as Celine from Céline.

For this reason, fans are ecstatic that the celebrated designer and 'Designer of The Year' (Fashion Awards 2004), is making a comeback. Below, we will take a look into what exactly women love so much about Philo's approach to womenswear and why her new brand could mean an extension of 'Old Céline'.

Her Personal Style as Influence

According to fashion journalist Jess Cartner-Morley, 'Her upmarket but understated Céline collections appealed to women who cared about design but did not see themselves as decorative.' The way Philo designed, always kept women and their lifestyle in mind. Philo understood that women were not looking for another frivolous look, but an understated and elegant wardrobe, which could work for an array of occasions. A wardrobe that reflected comfort and structure, one which closely mirrors the designer’s own approach to dressing.

The female gaze approach to fashion enabled the designer to closely relate to the modern women and her approach to design came solely from a female perspective, which is perhaps the greatest reason for her success. Minimal colors, clean lines, raw materials like leather, silk, and wool are the core of what city women in work and family were needing.

The Modern & Comfortable Woman

Clean and simple cuts are the foundation of Philo's vision, to which somber and versatile colors were added.

Her Revolutionary Campaigns

Advertisement campaigns such as the one featuring writer and fashion icon Joan Didion, created a collective of Céline girls that ranged in all ages, yet embraced their 'cool girl' aesthetic, one which still today women all around appreciate.

Her Approach to Colour

When exposed with color, the Céline runways layered minimal colors in a fresh palette which did not shock but contrarily brought light to sharp cuts of suits and materials such as silk. Philo had a way to embody color in her designs in a way that women were not scared to approach and incorporate in their daily looks.

Her Vision of a Sexy Woman

One way in which the designer created the aesthetic of a sexy woman is by using materials and cuts that remind one of a more sensual and intimate category - lingerie. However, Phoebe Philo introduced this concept, not by illustrating it as vulgar but by sticking to certain characteristics, like the use of light silk, bright tones, draping, and dark sensual lace - All features reminiscent of bed linens, lingerie, and feminine sensuality. Lengths were never 'too short' and kept a certain elegance which the fashion house during this era was especially known for. Her 'sexy woman' was also one which took advantage of incorporating androgyny, with the use of suit trousers and exposed shoulders and arms.

Overall, the woman Philo tried to portray is one which does not seek approval and needs to show much in order to feel confident. She remains sure that the elegance and strength she possesses suffices for her to be represented as powerful and sexy.

Her Organic & Unexpected Jewellery Designs

Perhaps not obvious at first, but Philo's jewelry and accessory collections are perhaps what rendered the fashion house as majestic as it has been instilled in the public. Throughout her collections, she is often spotted adding touches of raw shapes like round drops of gold that coupled with long pearls and diamonds created something reminiscent of Elsa Peretti's work at Tiffany. In addition, it was the first time accessories of a collection accessorised the accessories themselves. (tongue twister) Many times, the absurd leather shapes of Philo's footwear were adorned with dazzling gems that played with a theme of society's 'ugly and beautiful'. Similarly, this is portrayed in other footwear styles such as extremely pointed flats and fur-lined slides.

Her Work with Size & Shape - Bags

Not to mention, the revolutionary Cabas totes and the iconic 'Box bag' which surely were the designs that aided the house to raise sales from $200 million to $700 million by the time Philo left the house. By playing with size and revolutionising the 'hobo bag' trend, Céline gave birth to a new style of bags that women found practical yet elegant, due to their spaciousness and subtle knots and twists.

What do you think of Philo's return to the fashion scene? Comment below how you think Philo has revolutionised your personal way of styling and dressing.


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