As with so many others in the fashion fraternity, there was no room at Celine for us this season. Understandably: the presentation was scaled way, way back, to the concrete and white-walled Celine showroom on the Left Bank rather than the Tennis Club de Paris, Philo's usual show spot. Two presentations crammed in maybe a tenth of the usual spectators - the rest saw the garments on a rack in the showroom.
That was, perhaps, a blessing in disguise. After all, on the catwalk how could you have seen that the simple, geometric printed 'silk' scarves around the neck were actually kerchiefs of wafer-thin calf? That the leather vests were fine pleather, that the knits were aran bonded over with a translucent film. God is in the details, and it was easy to get lost in them at Celine.
Wandering through the rails of Philo's wares - few rails, as this collection added up to roughly half a usual Celine offering for either pre-collection or catwalk - you couldn't help but flash down a floor, to the buzzing Celine boutique on Rue de Grenelle, and how seamlessly this collection could slot into that retail space right away, today. On the one hand, that's a great thing - one of the most refreshing elements of Philo's fashion is how resolutely and absolutely realistic it is. There's no leap from catwalk to real-life. The two become one. At the same time, this collection felt especially unchallenging for Celine. There was no major motif, bar the oversized proportions of papery trousers and shrugged-on overcoats with fat martingale belts in back. Unlike past offerings, it felt like this collection needed an aesthetic hook to get you really addicted to the look, and to make an editorial statement.
There was another issue with this Celine collection. Just as Philo lays out her inspirations in neat bound copies on the seats of her shows, it seemed as if the aesthetic antecedents of these clothes sat too visibly on the surface. You picked up touched of Stephen Sprouse, of Comme des Garcons and Yohji Yamamoto, even of Raf Simons, Nicolas Ghesquiere's Balenciaga and Stefano Pilati's Yves Saint Laurent collections. These are the images that inform our times, and Philo has always been hardwired right into the heart of the here-and-now, but rather than synthesising that vocabulary and translating it into her own often-imitated visual language, they rose swiftly and crisply to top upon close viewing.
Scaling back this Celine presentation, however, indicated Philo's scaled-back ambitions for the season. This wasn't supposed to be a defined, refined statement of the new but merely a statement of intent for future. Alas, we've come to expect the former and are left slightly dissatisfied by the latter. It's not really that this collection was lacking, so much as Paris fashion week - and Autumn/Winter 2012 as a whole - feel lacking without Philo's say on the season. If anything's an indication of the immense power of the Philo effect, it's that.