This isn’t a drill. After a six-year hiatus following her departure from Celine as creative director, months of teasers, and a postponed launch date, Phoebe Philo is officially back.
On Monday, the designer’s eponymous brand, of which LVMH holds a minority stake, was unveiled to the world via phoebephilo.com. The dedicated website has had fashion enthusiasts in a chokehold since it opened up for registration this July.
Philo’s debut drop, coined A1, puts a playfully perverse spin on new-age minimalism. Made up of 150 curated pieces, many of which quickly sold out, the collection combines boiled wool trenches, leather bomber jackets, asymmetric silk tops, and distressed fringed trousers. Accessories include squishy oversized bags and square-toe loafers, plus a 23-karat gold chunky necklace made up of the repeating word “Mum.”
The long-awaited comeback represents a new era of seasonless fashion for Philo, according to the brand. Accompanied by a carmine red logo and an image-heavy landing page, items selling out within hours, despite site malfunctions, attests to Philo's industry power.
The designer’s impact on fashion is indelible. Even with the likes of Loewe, The Row, and Jil Sander now populating the quiet luxury arena, Philo’s influence can be felt in almost every corner of the sartorial landscape, from Daniel Lee’s Burberry to Matthieu Blazy’s Bottega Veneta.
Philo’s return to the spotlight may be one of the most-anticipated launches in recent fashion history, but that doesn’t make the proclaimed “messiah” exempt from critique. Shortly after launching, criticisms on pricing and an inexcusably paltry size guide came flooding in.
“Imagine starting a brand in the year of our lord 2023 and not considering size diversity,” stylist and editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson penned on Instagram.
Prices start at 450 for a pair of goggle-esque sunglasses and top 25,000 for a shearling coat. Sizes range from XS to XL; XS is equivalent to a US 2, while XL caters to a US 10.
Philo’s approach to luxury, which excludes plus-size shoppers, reaffirms fashion’s long-standing problem with inclusivity. If one of the industry’s most illustrious tastemakers isn’t moving the needle, then who will?
Previous allegations of racism have also resurfaced in light of Philo’s return; in 2013, models Iman, Naomi Campbell, and Bethann Hardison called the designer out for not hiring black models.
Responses from China’s Philophiles are just as mixed. Following the inaugural edit’s release, netizens swamped Weibo with reactions. One user penned, “Wow, this bag is £8,500. With this money, why not buy Hermès?”
Another netizen commented, “After waiting for so long and being postponed so many times, it’s still the same formula and not impressive at all, and it’s not as practical as The Row.”
Philo’s label has confirmed that it will adopt a direct-to-consumer approach, meaning items will only ever be available via phoebephilo.com (excluding secondary resale platforms).
This decision to eschew multi-brand retailers isn’t surprising. As Philo builds a new fashion universe on her own terms, the designer is proving that her name alone is worth its weight in style gold.
There was no massive media campaign, no runway show, and no celebrity ambassadorships in the run-up to the brand’s launch, yet the designer’s resurgence was one of the most talked-about fashion news in decades.
Staging a comeback is no easy feat, especially in a climate driven by media brouhaha. But in an era where good clothes are no longer enough to excuse antiquated values, especially those related to diversity, Philo may have already found herself falling behind.