All the monochrome looks and white at Céline last year was stiff and dull; the large sleeves, wide belts and deconstructed peplum a disavowal of the "clothes-for-real-women" label that had been assigned to Pheobe Philo after her triumphant debut for the label. But by employing the magic of satin, this season all Philo's moves for "real" clothes and sophistication and understated luxury became, once again, a revelation. Céline lost its relevance over the last few seasons but I'm very happy to say that here Philo's shine has returned (sorry, couldn't help myself). I didn't realise it until I caught myself feeling absurdly happy at this showing, but for the past year and a half I'd been holding my breath before each Céline show, only to be completely deflated.
But honestly Pheobe, this season? Congratulations. I'm a real woman and I want to go into a real shop and buy those shiny pants, and buy those shiny tops, and fold my shawls and collars as if I were an impossibly sophisticated antiques dealer who specializes in Chinese folk-art and who has a companion instead of a husband. I want to be the woman that would wear these clothes.
Of course by itself satin isn't really an innovation, and those baggy pants have been around for a while now, yet it's Phoebe's treatment which feels new and relevant; those exact proportions, and that exact size of those twisted shawls, the seeming carelessness with which they've been twisted. And that's true of all creative disciplines isn't it? How new you can make something old feel, with a bit of actual new thrown in.
When a collection is innovative and fresh it also feels clean, as if it has wiped away the built up grime of disappointment and derivatives of past collections. And adding to the sense of cleanliness here was the simple, straight hair and clear faces. Although I think some of the models misinterpreted the instructions to look nonchalant and ended up looking corpse-like. But very fresh-faced corpses of course.
I'm also in that minority that think Ashley Olsen looks sophisticated in Birkenstocks, and in the larger minority that loved Christopher Kane's pool sliders in a totally non-ironic way. So of course, I loved the footwear at Céline!
The footwear also brings up another interesting point, that Philo's "clothes-that-women-really-want-to-wear" tag has its downsides. As soon as I had zoomed up on those fluffy soles and painted toenails I predicted it, every review would comment on whether woman really would want to wear them. It happened, and it was boring. Don't trap designers in the box that you created for them, critics!
all images from vogue.com