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How to get the look that hasn’t even happened yet.
I don’t believe in the Second Coming, but I’ll make an exception for Phoebe Philo.
The British designer has ricocheted down the runway twice already, first as creative director at Chloé (2001-2007) and then at Céline (2008-2017). Both times, Philo’s artful takes on workwear, party dresses, and accessories enthralled editors and shoppers. Like A24 movies and Shake Shack vegan custard, Philo’s creations were the rare critical darlings that also kept selling out.
We haven’t heard much from Phoebe Philo since 2017, though demand for her old Chloé and Céline pieces continues to fuel resale sites like The RealReal and ReSee. In 2021, there were rumblings of a new label funded partly by LVMH (home of Dior, Givenchy, and Louis Vuitton, among others). Then, in July, a sparse website appeared collecting emails from future customers. Industry sources said the line would drop this September—but frankly, it could happen in 100 years and likely still sell out.
Among Philo’s greatest moments thus far: She made baby doll dresses and sock boots A Thing™. She reworked canvas and cotton into luxury evening wear. She expanded the visual vocabulary of working women beyond the pretty-or-powerful binary. She dressed everyone from Rihanna and Chloë Sevigny to Haim and Sofia Coppola. She cast Joan Didion in a fashion campaign. She made some very rad jeans.
Whatever hits PhoebePhilo.com in the (hopefully near) future, women will be furiously adding it to their carts. But then comes “click to purchase,” and that’s where things get tricky. Like magic in The Craft, Philo’s mastery has a high cost, and her new collection will no doubt sell out quicker than you can say “witchcraft.” Luckily, the designer’s influence is so woven into the fabric of the fashion industry that you can still dress like a Philo acolyte, even if you can’t score a new leather handbag or freshly released trousers on launch day.
Allow me to introduce you to #PhiloCore.
#PhiloCore is a manner of dress that captures the essence of Phoebe Philo’s design principles—at least as we know them so far—without breaking our hearts or our budgets. It pulls secondhand Philo pieces together with inspired riffs and honors both the dream of Philo-philes and the reality of getting dressed as a woman right now. It is also an excellent remedy for the early-fall onset of the “nothing to wear” despair.
So, let’s get to it.
Phoebe Philo’s time at Chloé was marked by a fierce defiance of Y2K’s ‘sexy baby’ aesthetic that embraced all things shiny, tiny, and tight. Instead, the designer pumped up the allure of a sack dress by making it wider and shorter, adding sheer ruffles that looked like foam down the front or embroidery details so ornate they bordered on Byzantine mosaics.
Before Bode and Sea New York made patchwork a Cool Girl staple, Philo sent model Anja Rubik down her Paris catwalk in a miniskirt quilted from actual studio fabric scraps. With chunky floral jewelry and giant chiffon bows, Philo created an edict that Girl World could exist beyond the realm of pink prettiness or sweet-tart Lolita vibes—and if you wanted to succeed in fashion, this elevated version of girlhood needed to be taken very seriously.
Coach Rogue 25 Bag, $995
With references like Hungarian street photographer Brassaï (born Gyula Halasz) and installation artist Isa Genzken, Phoebe Philo’s work at Céline still resonates with frustrated art history majors just dying to show off their backlog of brain residue. (FWIW, I am one such woman.) Though her 2017 take on Yves Klein’s iconic “Blue” now sells for double my mortgage, there are other ways to get the fix without sliding into the DMs of that painter you met at Frieze L.A…
Rachel Comey Garra Pant, $450
Next to Normal
Fur-coated sandals, bell-sleeve thermal tops, and grocery coupons printed on cashmere wraps? Easy, at least for Philo, whose work at Céline turned the #normcore movement into a confrontation between domestic labor and luxury living. (In 2013, she even subverted the popular plaid shopping bags seen in Chinatown, turning the print into a dress and a coat.) In 2014, fashion blogger Jayne Min put the same plaid on a pair of skateboards. They can now be purchased for $2500 on eBay, but maybe it’s more fun to buy these instead.
Normcore Meets #Philocore:
Once upon a time—let’s call it 2010—Philo realized biker jackets didn’t have to be bulky, or swingy, or clanging with hardware. Instead, she cut the Hell’s Angels staples closer to the body and inserted cozy panels of wool. (Around the same time, she completely recut a traditional moto bomber in structured navy wool.) When paired with an a-line leather skirt, the look became a new take on a business suit, giving women the same kind of armor as a tailored blazer and slacks, with some additional weatherproofing and an added sheen of “total badass.”
Because of its layering potential, the “soft biker” vibe was also an easy solution to changing weather—the toppers could work with a cotton tank top, shorts, and sandals, or over a chunky wool sweater with a beanie and snow boots. 13 years later, “soft biker” still seems modern—and thanks to the flawless construction of the original jackets, you can buy them resale in amazing condition—albeit for a price.
#Philocore With an Edge:
Céline 2010 Moto Jacket, $1417
Bonus: One Bag to Rule Them All
A purse cannot be all things to all women, but The Edge Bag is pretty close. Created by Philo for Céline in 2013, it has a singular strap, a quartet of tiny gold “feet” on the bottom, and one long zipper all the way across the top. For those of us who hate fussing with a clasp every time we need to find our keys, The Edge keeps us from losing our minds (and our lip balms) on a daily basis. It is also big enough to fit an apple, a book, and a tablet without getting bulky. There’s a hidden pocket in the back, which is useful for work badges and Metrocards. But my favorite thing is that it’s shaped like a yoga wedge and provides the same kind of support but swaps the sacrum for the sacral. Also? It’s like $500 on resale sites and looks even better with the wear and tear of experience—much like the actual women who carry it.
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