Phoebe Philo has always had a great sense of who she is. That centeredness informs her way of designing clothes that reflect fashion as it's really lived, rather than anything arty or conceptual, and it gives her work the vitality so many young women identified with during her wildly successful pre-marriage, pre-family run at Chloé. Well, four years down the line, she's back—different house, different mid-thirties phase of life—but with possibly even more directness and focus at Celine. "I just thought I'd clean it up. Make it strong and powerful—a kind of contemporary minimalism," she said.

The precise lines and simple equations of luxuriously sporty elements read as a brisk mission to make classy utilitarianism sexy: not "again," but for the first time for Philo's own generation. The pairing of sharp, whipcord-trimmed skirts, fine leather tees, piqué shirting, over-the-head cross-laced dresses, and modified military jackets was shot through with pragmatism and a crucial underlying appreciation of classic Parisian taste. At some points, the Chloé Phoebe was visible again. It was fully there in the super-flattering cut of her high-waist, wide-leg pant, and the genius of the wedge sandal that made every single look work. The difference was that the restrained palette of camel, beige, white, and black had the full stamp of a grown-up sensibility, one that also carried the bat squeak of Helmut Newton-esque eroticism in the semi-sheer nude fabrics and the plain yet provocative use of leather.

Quite possibly that charge doesn't sizzle in the runway photographs, but every young woman in the room felt it. As the audience exited, a general cry of, "Oh, I just want to be like that," was ricocheting through the crowd. And that, as we seem to remember, is just what they said when Philo's Chloé went into vertical liftoff.