British-born designer Phoebe Philo said on December 22 that she is quitting Céline, the French fashion house that she has led for the last decade. Rumours had been swirling since October about the 44-year-old designer, who created a cult following at the label for her hip minimalist style. Many have talked of her as a possible successor to Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, despite there being little sign that the 84-year-old is ready to surrender his scissors.
"It's been amazing. Working with Céline has been an exceptional experience for me these last 10 years," Philo said in a statement. Her exit is the latest in a merry-go-around of departures at the top of the fashion world, with some fearing that the hectic pace of the industry is burning designers out. Philo made her name as number two to the young Stella McCartney at Chloé, and was known for her no-nonsense, back-to-basics approach. She took over at Chloé when McCartney left to set up her own label, before taking two years out to be with her family and have a second child.
Like McCartney, she is a vegetarian who banned fur from her collections, though she continued to use leather at Céline. Philo was also a trendsetter off the catwalk, and known for her love of white Adidas Stan Smith tennis trainers.
Fashion critic Sophie Fontanel of L'Obs magazine mourned her departure, saying she was the "opposite of marketing... it's her clothes themselves that are the thunder. Everything is practical and original, sober and sophisticated, of the moment and yet ageless.... It is hard to see Céline without Phoebe Philo."
Having boosted sales at both Chloé and Céline despite refusing to have an Instagram account until last year, she is hot fashion property, particularly admired for her bags. Philo reportedly flirted with taking the helm at Louis Vuitton in 2011 after the departure of Marc Jacobs, but decided to stay on at Céline. Bernard Arnault, the owner of the LVMH which owns Céline, said: "What Phoebe has accomplished over the past 10 years represents a key chapter in the history of Céline. A new era of development will now start, and I am extremely confident in the future success of this iconic house."
Several designers have been mooted as possible successors, including fellow Brit Christopher Bailey of Burberry, Natasa Cagalj, who also worked with McCartney, and Céline's ready-to-wear director Michael Rider.