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Why are we still so obsessed with Phoebe Philo and Old Céline?

The accessories and the items created by the cult designer have reached steep reselling prices

Why are we still so obsessed with Phoebe Philo and Old Céline? The accessories and the items created by the cult designer have reached steep reselling prices

In 2017, when Phoebe Philo announced her farewell to Céline after 10 years at its helm, the hysteria was general. Her followers renamed themselves 'Philosophiles' and opened blogs on all social media platforms to express their grief (the most iconic remains the Instagram page Old Céline, a real posthumous archive of Philo’s creations), and at the same time, an increase in searches for Céline clothes on reselling platforms raised their original price up to 30%

In opposition to the noisy trends of the 2000s, Phoebe Philo redefined the concept of chic with her 'contemporary minimalism', in which simplicity and comfort are accompanied by clean and rigorous lines. Her collections seem to be the runaway transposition of Bauhaus architecture and her clothes were tailored for a businesswoman, yet very elegant and refined, desexualized and powerful thanks to oversized coats, masculine attitude, big and dark glasses, wide-legged trousers, flat shoes: finally there was no need to wear short or tight dresses to feel sexy. 

From 2017 until today the research for Cèline items designed by Philo has been constant, if not growing.  In the United States, the reselling website TheRealReal has launched a program to give collectors 24-hour of advance on all new sales of the brand, potentially the best way to get your hands on unobtainable pieces like the 2011 collection of scarves or foulards, the silk shirts (like the one worn by Kanye West at the 2017 Coachella), the paint prints of 2014 or the Yves Klein dresses of 2017, which tend to sell out at the exact moment they hit the web. On Vestiare Collective the Edge sunglasses can be purchased at a price of 1300 euros, among the most requested items we also have the double trench coat, an English evergreen with Sherlock Holmes vibes, the safari-style jumpsuit, cowboy boots, sandals with fur. 

An honourable mention goes out to bags: among the most requested there is the Box Bag, hugely popular among fashion editors since its launch in 2011, purchasable on Depop from €2,200 upwards, the timeless Clasp model, an evergreen with a retro charm starting from 2,000 euros, the roomy and versatile Trio Bag in black leather, available at a cost of 800 euros. In addition to websites such as Depop, Vestiare, eBay, the Old Céline Market page is very popular on Instagram, where generally the proposed archive items sell out immediately, even if the items cost much more than their original price. 

So how can we explain the cult around Phoebe Philo and Old Céline? The interest in vintage is partly due to the digital movement of archival fashion, an ecosystem of social media pages, showrooms and personalities that have revived the appreciation of the brand archives, partly thanks to the love for vintage itself, a spontaneous and recent phenomenon born from a new awareness of the importance of sustainability in the fashion system. Certainly, the limited availability of vintage items of the brand contributes to generating hype (no holder of a Céline it-bag would ever think of selling it), but a huge part of the success is certainly due to the figure of Phoebe Philo, who, avoiding any social media and keeping away from gossip, has naturally built around herself and her creations an aura of mystery that has increased the cult. 

The contrast between her aesthetic and the one of her heir creates moreover a deep contrast. The innovative turn of the new creative director Hedi Slimane wasn't very appreciated by her fans: he chose to re-baptize the brand (the accent was removed, a more linear font was introduced and the word "Paris" is now present only on garments and packaging), as he previously did also at Saint Laurent. The use of words and logos wants to mark a new era for the fashion Maison and a new target, no longer a rigorous career woman who makes her way in society by claiming her rights, but more of a fresh French girl, rich and carefree, with a baseball cap and lots of denim. 

The success of Old Céline is the perfect combination of the wave that wants fashion girls dressed in the most archive pieces and an infinite nostalgia for the years in which those who wore Céline embodied the elegance of Joan Didion.