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Is Phoebe Philo set for a Céline exit? The rumours are rife

Phoebe Philo set to leave Céline? Although parent LVMH was quick to “categorically deny” yesterday’s widespread rumour, the words “any imminent departure” added to its statement raised doubts of her staying long term.

The French luxury goods group is reported to be interviewing designers to replace its much-prized and praised creative director, according to a host of sources. “The interviews have been going on for a few months now,” one told Business of Fashion, on condition of customary anonymity.

Another source with knowledge of the situation said Philo was expected to leave by the end of the year with the terms of her departure having been agreed before the summer. “It smells like the end of an epoch,” one headhunting source said, again on condition of anonymity.

It would certainly be a big change for Céline, which Philo has turned into the epitome of cool after the more glam approach taken earlier when Michael Kors was its creative chief. But while she has made it a must-see and has driven sales ever higher, some analysts have said that she hasn’t embraced the digital world as fast as rival luxury power brands such as Burberry, LVMH’s Dior or Kering’s Gucci, or even latecomer Prada.

Anyone who takes over will be expected to have, if not a digital-first viewpoint, at least a very pro-online attitude that will take in both e-commerce and social media.

For now, industry sources said potential replacements for Philo could include former Stella McCartney design director Natasa Cagalj, who is now at Ports 1961, Michael Rider, former design director of Céline ready-to-wear, and Ilaria Icardi, design director at Victoria Beckham. However, given some of the surprise appointments made in recent years, the field is wide open.

Philo, who worked with McCartney and Chloé and later took over from her, joined Céline in 2008, turning the underperforming label into a fashion influencer with her minimalist-with-a-twist designs. Over the period, she helped lift the label’s annual sales from €200m to more than €700m, according to analysts.

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