To the casual "non-follower" of fashion, womenswear label Chloé is likely a complete unknown. The only things you know about Parisian brand Céline are likely to have come out of Kanye West's mouth. But chances are, no matter your fashion aptitude, you've heard of Phoebe Philo.
With rumors swirling about Philo's departure as creative director from Céline, it's impossible not to look at the impactful legacy she'll be leaving behind—not just in Parisian high-fashion circles, but on the combination of women's and menswear, and (perhaps more importantly) the racks of fast-fashion giants like Zara.
It all begins in 1997, when Philo, a friend to Stella McCartney, joined the rising designer as an assistant at Chloé. Upon McCartney's departure to found her namesake label, Philo stepped into the role of creative director, her first collection being Chloé's Spring/Summer 2002. Inevitably, Philo would find her footing within the low-key French label, capitalizing on an archive of grily, playful designs that, as Business of Fashion puts it, "made Chloé one of the hottest invites of Paris fashion week, and a commercial success." She would depart Chloé following the brand's Spring/Summer 2006 collection, to focus on family. She would reemerge as Céline's savior beginning with the 2010 Resort collection. While most guys won't be wearing her designs at Chloé, it cannot be understated how deeply her style resonates in the house—even to this day. A look at Chloé's latest collections is a reminder of the masculine touches (the pooling, '70s-era trousers, for example) that are a clear holdover from Philo's personal style. Sure, Chloé is certainly more feminine since Philo's departure, but—like Raf Simons with Jil Sander—it's clear that in some ways, Philo's aesthetic never really left.
But for all of the work Philo did at Chloé, it's what she's done (and is continuing to do) at Céline that has made her a household fashion name. To put it simply, Philo carried over her affinity for menswear in women's design and neutral colors into her work at Céline. But that's grossly understating the work. Without a doubt, Philo repeated what she had done at her previous gig, turning the understudy French label into one not just one of Paris' biggest players, but also a crowd favorite amongst fashion insiders and editors. Philo is often hailed, as Tim Blanksput it, "a designer who knows what women want," which uniquely dovetails with her own personal style.
Explaining her introduction to Céline in an interview at the 2014 Vogue Festival, Philo said:
"When I came to the house, I had an idea of what I thought the core values of Céline should be. Céline had no recognizable silhouette, no famous historic designers, it hadn't been licensed out in the Seventies and Eighties as many other brands had. I've never really looked into archives anywhere I've worked, actually… I feel, like it or hate it, it doesn't matter, I just like it to be strong. I think it's worth doing something differently."
For a brand that once had no "recognizable silhouette" Philo's freedom within the brand quickly remedied that problem. From "winged" tote bags, to slouchy trousers with turtlenecks, the brand became the vision of Parisian chic. Commenting on one of Céline's best collections, Resort 2012, critic Nicole Phelps remarked:
"As for the clothes, Philo is still pushing the wardrobe concept, covering the basics and then some. The thing is, in her hands nothing is ever basic: bold, or maybe even brave, is more like it."
Looking at a Céline runway show, it's believable that a woman would be simultaneously comfortable—but fashionable—in Philo's designs. The designer herself condemns the "sexualization" of women through clothes, insisting uponthe very basic idea that, "women should have choices and women should feel good in what they wear."
Even Kanye West opted to wear a tunic from the house's Spring/Summer 2011 showduring a performance at Coachella in the same year. Needless to say, he's been anoutspoken advocate ever since.
But it's the ease of Philo's designs that not only make her popular among women (and men), but make her the perfect designer to "inspire" fast fashion retailers. Much has been made about the fast fashion's tradition of copying what's on the runway, but for Céline, the issue has been particularly acute. Taking everything from silhouettes to the very same runway models, brands like Zara have thrived by not only taking Céline's popular design aesthetic, but offering it to the masses at major markdown. This is the paradigm under which fast fashion giants operate their businesses today.
But as Kanye West said in his now-legendary first BBC interview with Zane Lowe, there's still no replacement for the genuine article:
"You can have on a Zara pant, right? And a girl walks in with the Céline version, and you feel like shit."
As for Philo, she takes it in stride, feeling more flattered and excited, even through the blatant ripping-off. Besides, fast fashion brands will want to copy Philo's work on it's accolades alone; which include an “International Designer of the Year” from the CFDA in 2011 (presented of course, by Kanye West), and an OBE honor in 2014.
If Philo is truly leaving Céline as the rumors suggest, that's more of a disappointing turn for her current house than for fashion itself. While the designer has often stated her need to step back from the fashion cycle (a break from 2006 to 2008 to spend time with her then-newborn daughter being the most notable example), it's part of what allows her voice to be razor-sharp when it comes to pairing down both inspirations and collection pieces. That skill will travel with her to where ever she lands, much like it did during her transition from Chloé to Céline.
"[Céline] is the perfect storm of a truly original fresh voice, absolute perfection of quality, utter standards, disciplined brand stewardship and good timing,” said Linda Fargo, senior vice president and fashion director of Bergdorf Goodman, in a 2013 Business of Fashion Céline profile. While the compliment is certainly aimed at the Parisian house, that praise has everything to do with the work of Phoebe Philo.
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While some WE Fest attendees were wondering how or if Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton would address their recent "D-I-V-O-R-C-E," one couple was celebrating their 20th anniversary where they said their vows.
On Aug. 5, 1995, Jane and Glen Hines exchanged vows under a tree near the ranch house in the midst of WE Fest. While Little Texas was playing in the background, the newlyweds, she in a white wedding dress and a white hat and he in dark pants and a long-sleeve white shirt, put on a show of their own.
After they exchanged vows, music fans asked to have their pictures taken with the newlyweds. Twenty years later, they created the same buzz. Wearing T-shirts that proudly stated, "Married at WE Fest" with pictures from their wedding on the front and back, random strangers came up to congratulate them. One woman came up to show off her Alive in '95 mug.
"We're clowns. What can I say," said Jane. "The older you get, the braver you get."
"We're getting the crowd cranked up," Glen said.
Twenty years ago they just wanted a simple wedding with their friends.
So, why get married at WE Fest?
"I didn't know any better. He did," Jane said, gesturing to her husband.
"It didn't cost us anything," Glen said.
That and the WE Fest staff was willing to work with the couple to make their special day memorable. The staff worked with them on catering the event, decorated the tree they were married under, gave them VIP seats and invited them onstage.
The weather Friday was similar to what it was like 20 years ago.
"It was hot. We were lucky it didn't rain or storm," Jane said.
"I thought it was great. We had a lot of fun. It's the same group of people ever since," said Kevin Hines, Glen's son from his first marriage.
Kevin took his dad to his first WE Fest in 1992 and met his wife, Susi, there. The couple from the Twin Cities was sitting with Glen and Jane on Friday afternoon.
Their experience that day made them determined to return every WE Fest since. The cowboy hat Glen wore Friday has the pins from all of the shows.
The hat Jane wore Friday was the same she wore 20 years ago.
While they still attend the concerts, their experience is different 20 years later.
"It means we can't move as fast as we used to. Especially up that hill," Jane said, pointing to the path from the concert bowl to the ranch house. "We can't stay as late. We can't close the shows. We didn't think anything of it two years ago."
Even if they can't stay for the whole headlining set—Miranda Lambert was scheduled to start at 10:45—they'll drive back from Moorhead again today to see another day of music.
While they love country music, it's the space at Soo Pass Ranch that's just as meaningful.
"Every year we come back to say hi to our tree," Jane said.
Their song was "Keeper of the Stars"
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Less than two weeks after Daniel Hemric proposed to Kenzie Ruston, they will compete against each other on the track.
Hemric, who regularly runs in the Camping World Truck Series, will drive in Friday’s K&N Pro Series East race at Watkins Glen International. Ruston, a regular in the series, also is entered.
They’ve raced against each other before – about 20 times in Super Late Models and two previous times this season in the K&N Series – but that’s nothing compared to what Hemric experienced on the trip to St. Lucia to propose to Ruston, his girlfriend of six years.
Hemric packed the engagement ring in his suitcase. As they waited on luggage after landing, her bag arrived and his didn’t. More bags came. His was not among those.
Finally, it arrived. The last bag.
“I’ve never been so relieved,’’ Hemric said.
Then came the proposal July 25 on the beach.
“I started getting down on one knee and I’ve never had a more nerve-racking experience in my life,’’ he said.
“Her reaction was priceless and it meant the world to me how excited she was and how shocked she still was whether she knew (about the proposal) or not.’’
Ruston admits she had a clue. She knew Hemric had gotten a stone from the ring of Ruston’s grandmother to put in Ruston’s ring.
“I knew it was coming, and I still cried,’’ Ruston said. “It was very sweet and very personal.’’
As they return to racing, neither sees competing against each other as a big deal. After all, they met while racing Legends Cars in different divisions.
“In more ways than others, we actually help each other,’’ Ruston said. “We both understand racing. We do spend a lot of time apart, but I feel like racing is what brought us together. Racing is a big part of our lives.’’
Said Hemric: “I can’t imagine finding anyone better. I know she’s the one for me and I’m excited to spend the rest of my life with.’’
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