Phoebe Philo Exits Céline, Adding to Fashion Turmoil


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Phoebe Philo in Paris in October 2016 after the show for Céline’s 2017 spring-summer, ready-to-wear collection.

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Patrick Kovarik/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A decade after transforming Céline into the favored label of power women everywhere and beginning a new era of minimalism in fashion, Phoebe Philo, its artistic director, has announced she is leaving the house.

She is the fourth and best-known designer to exit a job this month, adding a final twist to 12 months of dizzying change for the industry on both the creative and corporate sides.

In a brief statement announcing the news, Ms. Philo thanked her team, and Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the luxury group that owns Céline, said: “What Phoebe has accomplished over the past 10 years represents a key chapter in the history of Céline. We are very grateful to Phoebe for having contributed to the great momentum of this Maison. A new era of development for Céline will now start, and I am extremely confident in the future success of this iconic Maison.”

Ms. Philo, who first came to prominence as the designer at Chloé, made Céline matter in a way it never had before. LVMH acquired the house in 1996, naming Michael Kors designer the following year, and though he gave it a jolt of glossy jet-set relevance at the start, he left in 2004, and it quickly sank into confusion with a revolving door of designers. When Ms. Philo joined in 2008, Céline had ceased to be a real part of the fashion conversation.

With one collection, she changed all that.

Remaking the brand in her own image, one that catered to the female gaze, she stripped away fuss and frippery. Her Céline was a Céline of the mind, rather than of the Plaza Athénée, and it was a resounding success. Unlike many designers, she did not pay lip service to the house DNA or past styles, preferring to insist that while she was designer, Céline would be what she made of it. She also stayed away from playing the celebrity game. Her first ad campaign famously did not include the heads of the models, ensuring the focus would be on the clothes and bags.

Though LVMH does not break down sales of individual brands, analysts estimate Céline’s annual revenue at 700 to 800 million euros ($949 million). A late entrant to the digital world — Ms. Philo was not a fan of social media, and often expressed her feeling that her work should be experienced in person, rather than online — Céline nevertheless had 682,000 Instagram followers after joining the platform only in February.

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