March 03, 2013 Paris
You can't resist imagining the life of the Céline woman; it is quite an extraordinary one. She has some wardrobe for a start—one so precise she wouldn't sit down in it until last season. Of course, she has issues—who among us doesn't?—and she seemed to be working through many of them for Spring. In so doing she became a far more human creation. Now, having gone through her somewhat louche period, it appears as if the Céline woman may be settling down.
For one, she isn't wearing furry slippers anymore. Yet she hasn't entirely abandoned the idea of domesticity and warmth. If anything, Philo has increased the quotient this season in her collection. Yet the designer has also melded a mood of stripped-down, put-together elegance, something of the old Céline woman combined with the new.
This was primarily demonstrated in the terrific fabric choices. Tactile, tasteful, and—dare it be said—cozy, they tethered the entire offering. This touchable aspect, the very desirability of wearing and living in such materials, is unsurpassed in Philo's output for Céline. The show began with what looked like a form of bouncy cream bouclé; the designer used it for a skirt that gently flared just below the knee and a simple band of a top. Swaddling the model from torso to shoulders, it had a combination of constriction and comfort, a play of sensual and safe. The exact same look was echoed at the very end in navy blue. On both occasions, a simple bag was clutched. It was reminiscent of a hot water bottle in its cozy cover.
There was a notion of the mid-century modern made contemporary in this collection; the soft, rounded shapes, the color palette, the exaggerated silhouettes of the coats all played on this. Yet there was also plenty of room for perversity, as in the second-skin leather boots that seemed as if they might be thigh-skimming under those tunics, as well as the laundry-bag check made large on coats, wrap skirts, and funnel-neck tops. This is a motif from Helmut Lang, here applied to Philo's domestic theme, a nod and a wink to high fashion and the humdrum in one. As Juergen Teller, the photographer of the Céline campaigns, put it: "Really elegant but weird; almost nerdy but perverse." And he should know.
And as Phoebe Philo put it backstage after her show: "It was coming from a place of emotion and intimacy, something instinctive. There was softness and desire, to create something emotionally engaged." Over the years there has been much talk of Philo and her output as being "cool." What she has achieved over her last two seasons at Céline is something far more difficult than cool: That's warmth.