19 February 2016

A Visual Alphabet of Céline

Classic, minimalist and clean are the trifle of words layered to epitomise Pheobe Philo's Céline. Staying true to her initial ideology of polished uniformity, she simultaneously pioneered a new-age modernism which brought - and continues to bring - the brand into the future with her. "Classic" is a huge responsibility. How does one remain classic and equally relevant? The two contradict each other yet the house has coaxed them into combination to dance the dance of unorthodox elegance. I've already given Chanel and Gucci the alphabet treatment so the time has come for a pictorial A-Z of all things Céline.

A is for androgynous
It's not masculine but it's not a girly femininity that prances around in an intrusive manner. The Céline woman is confident, intellectual and creative with a boyish beauty that compliments the clothes. Models like Stella Tennant and Daria Webowy are featured in campaigns with their tall, austere, slender physique making them quintessentially Céline.

B is for brush stroke print
Every once in a while, a dynamic print or stand-out colour emerges from the usual neutral colour palette, which we'll get to in C. The sharp lines exploded from the clothes, showing minimalism the cold shoulder and revealing a maximalist approach that infected the usually-clean aesthetic. Introducing more visual and symbolic characteristics to the design process challenged the Céline status quo, showing the artistic flair of the brand and its wearers.

C is for carefully contrived colour palette
Black, white (see w), fawn, navy and khaki form the colour core to which seasonal shades dot in and out of. The earthy and natural tones are the dead giveaway of a Céline garment and more than anything, draw attention to the unparalleled quality and cut of the fabrics. Accessories can be added to give the outfit depth and make you feel like like this select palette is the only one in existence.

D is for delicate details
References to literary works, architecture, artistic movements and music subcultures are made through modest, albeit mighty details. Practicality and personality collide in the form of brooches and hair clasps - without which the whole outfit simply would not be the same.

E is for exuding effortlessness
It's the easy, "I just threw this together" look that's synonymous with French style. Yes, the buttons on the shirt sleeves are undone but the Céline woman simply doesn't care. It's a whole new level of perfection, propelled further by its efforts not to be perfect - in fact so high that it sits above the clouds and provokes angelic harmonies upon viewing.

F is for flattering fit
Precision cuts are so sharp that they push the physical boundaries of structure to create shapes that invent hitherto unseen silhouettes. Oversized is the objective (see O) and this equally flatters in acting as a illusory camouflage which conceals and reveals in the right places. Pieces that are more figure-hugging and give a fit that is sexy by Céline standards, compensate for this by having long sleeves and finishing below the knee - showing zero skin to balance out the tight fit.

G is for grace with guts
Although simplicity is synonymous with Céline, there are distinctive features and details (see D) that keep us all on our toes while allowing us to find pieces that resonate on an individual basis. If all was too plain, the world would eventually get - dare I say it - bored. Pheobe Philo has experimented with near enough every possible aspect of clothing and accessories to create pieces that don't just move the brand forward, but move it ahead of everyone else in the game with its polished personality and grand gumption.

H is for highly historic
In 1945, Céline Vipiana and her husband created one of the first luxury brands in the industry, Céline, a made-to-measure children's shoe business. In 1960, it evolved into a ready-to-wear fashion brand for women with a sportswear approach. In 1987, Bernard Arnault decided to buy into Céline’s capital but it was only in 1996 that the brand was integrated into the LVMH group for 2.7 billion French francs ($540 million).

I is for impeccable quality
Branding and logos are of course non-existent so there's a subtlety and confidence that the quality of the clothes speak on behalf of the brand and its wearer. Classic pieces are so because they'll never go out of style so creating clothes that are made to such a high standard that they can physically stand the test of time, is a better sign than any of a solid investment.

J is justified jewellery 
A sleek, perhaps monochromatic outfit, is the foundation to which jewellery can be used to build in personality and charisma. Precious stones, unconventional marbles, candid cuffs and enormous earrings are among the many, many treasures that are now integral to Céline's identity. Each piece worn serves a purpose, you never look overcrowded and balance is key.

K is for knot bracelet
I picked up the gold version myself and unless I actively search, I don't think that I'll find anything that it doesn't go with. It can be layered with multiple bracelets and bangles or worn on its own as a statement of simplicity. It comes in a chunkier version if you're after something that's a little louder, but still not screaming in your face.

L is for less is more
The age-old motto to live by. What else can I say?

M is for mini luggage
It-bags come and go, and this is one that came and still doesn't look like it's going anywhere. The design is iconic and the range of colour ways mean that there's quite literally something (or some-five) for everyone. Photographed on the arm and in the closets of the most influential people in fashion, film and music, the mini luggage commands waiting lists and provokes needing sighs aplenty.

N is for new-age modernism
Reserved but not rigid, sensual but not vulgarly sexy, powerful but not controlling, intelligent but not presumptuous in being so: the Céline woman has and is it all. The look is simple and it is refined but it's also experimental and continues to defy convention.

O is for oversized everything
Strangling the figure is left to the Balmain's of the world so that oversized silhouettes can be embraced and rejoiced in equal part. Comfort and the unassuming confidence that it brings means that these are clothes that woman actually want to wear. They are flattering beyond belief (see F) and uphold a mystery that leaves your shape to the imagination as opposed to putting everything on show.

P is for pheobe philo
The British mum-of-three was born is Paris and educated at Central Saint Martins. In 1997, a year after she graduated, Philo became the First Assistant on Ready-to-Wear at Chloé and was appointed Creative Director of the brand in 2001. It wasn't until 2008 that Philo took over at Céline, bringing her modern minimalism to the very forefront of fashion.

Q is for questions
Will you be comfortable in that outfit? Are those shoes going to give you sore feet? Is your make-up overdone? Are you wearing too many bracelets? Are those earrings simply a bit too much with that necklace? If yes is the answer to any of the above then you could look more try-hard than très chic.

R is for retail space
For a brand to be coherent, everything must be justified and connected across all platforms, from websites to stores. Céline's retail spaces are simple with a focus on structure and attributes that allow an intelligent personality to shine through - much like the clothes. Visual merchandising is consistent on a global scale and customer service is as superlative as you'd expect.

S is for stan smith
The Celine Queen's shoe of choice. Trainers became the new stilettos in around 2012 among the early-adopters. Having always favoured freeing flats to hulking heels, Philo single-handedly brought the style back onto the radar of the fashion-conscious. With the relaunch of Stan Smith in 2014, it's been the trainer of the past few years and soon enough, every high-end fashion house and high street brand had released their own version.

T is for trio bag
Three pouches of complete and utter convenience - the perfect size for everyday and an ideal bright pop of colour to top off a neutral Céline outfit. A feature of complete design genius; you can take off the front pouch and use it as a clutch, taking your daytime bag to an evening bag in the easiest and most inventive of ways. My emerald green version has travelled all over the place with me and I can say from experience that it's a bag of (at least) nine lives.

U is for uniting in uniform
If you think about the majority of fashion's top players, they have a signature style that is identifiable as theirs. Find what works for you in terms of colour, fit and style and make it yours. If you want to go full Céline, ensure that amid your usual uniform, there's a feature that is individual to you. Take Pheobe Philo's turtlenecks as an example or Céline veteran Sarah Harris' sleek, silver hair.

V is for varying textures
Cashmere, silk, leather, rubber, mohair, wool, pony skin... the range of quality fabrics and juxtaposing textures gives a depth that one would think unachievable without colour. It's as if vibrant colour is replaced by humble texture to create something that perhaps transcends colour and its communicative powers.

W is for white
An angelic sterility pours from pure white clothing. Difficult to maintain - lifestyle permitting - but liberating and unequivocally chic. Again, the lack of colour draws attention straight to the quality, fit and similarly draws attention to the wearer amid an approach of "all black errythang".

X is for (e)xemplary beauty
Of course, with such a strong identity of nonchalance, matching this in the field of beauty is something that Céline has mastered. Attention to detail, naturally flawless skins and just the right amount of quirk shows off existing features and puts a sparkle in the eye of the girls (pardon the pun).

Y is for youthful
74-year-old Grace Coddington is rarely seen without a pair of Céline flats on. 81-year old author Joan Didion was the face of the brand when everyone else was choosing 19-year-old instagram addicts to front campaigns. Age is just a number and these two ladies ooze youth in the same way that the 20-somethings who similarly covet the brand do.

Z is for zeitgeist
Everything slots together and clicks into place. The colours draw attention to the sheer quality which is reflected in the finite fit. The range of textures complement each other to inject metaphorical colour with a seamless comfort that makes the clothes a joy to wear. Céline dictates trends despite defying them; continuing to convey a controlled but colossal cool.