An antidote to next season's omnipotent femininity (which, arguably, Philo mastered back in her days at Chloe), this collection was minimal in the extreme.
In a Paris season fairly packed with high-profile hirings, firings and debuts, the first show of Phoebe Philo for French fashion house Celine arguably charts as the hottest ticket. This was the woman, after all, who re-invigorated Chloe, and has already previewed her creative mettle for this new venture with a Cruise collection that garnered rave reviews and bulging order books for this admittedly dusty house. For her first official catwalk outing, Philo took the bull by the horns and indisputably reinvented Celine for a new decade. An antidote to next season's omnipotent femininity (which, arguably, Philo mastered back in her days at Chloe), this collection was minimal in the extreme. The modus operandi was established by the first look: a lean, mean black mini-dress with slash pockets and a shrunken calfskin tee slung over the top. No fuss, no frills, no compromise. Leather emerged not only in these shrunken, sternum-hugging tees, but in firm a-line mini-shirts, short-sleeved tops and fabulous stiff shorts, cut across a high waist with a brass-buckled belt. Even in earth-tones of beige, black and putty, the latter felt a little sci-fi, likewise stretch sweaters in every shade of flesh, recalling the mid-nineties work of Helmut Lang. Undeniably modern, (and by modern, one finally means new) the collection simultaneously managed to scream Celine - but Celine, for once, done right. The house's equestrian heritage (part of its logo is, after all, a horse-drawn two-in-hand) was there, in the sleek little canvas skirts and front-laced tunic-dresses bound in leather like horse-blankets. The logo scarves, Celine's bestselling bourgeoise stalwarts, were nodded to: rinsed of colour, their fluttering lightweight silk was sliced into billowing blouses and pussy-bows and twinned with a dynamite selection of polished black calf. Millitary touches crept in too, with epaulettes popping up to square shoulders, and a fantastic selection of trench coat-dresses for the chicest of army corps, rendered sleeveless, backless and clasped tightly to the body. Again, the trench is a staid house signature at Celine - Philo's reappropriations were quite simply some of the best garments, hands down, to appear on a catwalk this whole season. Likewise, her white shirt-dress, sleeves cropped at the elbow, worn under one of those cotton-drill skirts with its curved hem peeking out. A simple styling trick, perhaps, but one that seemed genuinely exciting. Interestingly for a house founded on accessories, for this first catwalk outing they were minimal: wooden-soled clogs with glistening brass nails and a couple of great boxy clutches. The focus was undeniably on the clothing - and understandably so. Despite the folios of images left on each seat to unwind the complex inspiration she pumped into these clothes, Philo's collection doesn't require overt analysis. Once again, she has managed to tap into the pulsing vein of exactly what women will want to wear next season.