Former Celine Creative Director Phoebe Philo To Launch Her Namesake Fashion House, With LVMH Investment
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM — Acclaimed designer Phoebe Philo is returning to fashion with an independent, namesake house — and with LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton as a minority investor.
The former creative director of Celine told WWD she would create clothing and accessories “rooted in exceptional quality and design,” and would divulge more details about her new brand in January 2022.
In February 2020, Philo started planning a new collection and interviewing designers. According to market sources, she has had a small team working in London since late last year.
One of the most revered — and bankable — designers of her generation, Philo most recently engineered a spectacular brand rejuvenation during a 10-year tenure at Celine, one of about 75 brands controlled by LVMH. Season after season, she minted womanly, modernist clothing and distinctive handbags, accruing an intensely loyal fan base.
“Being in my studio and making once again has been both exciting and incredibly fulfilling,” Philo said in a brief statement. “I am very much looking forward to being back in touch with my audience and people everywhere. To be independent, to govern and experiment on my own terms is hugely significant to me.”
However, she has brought on a powerful silent partner in LVMH. The size of the French conglomerate’s minority stake could not be learned at the time of this post, and financial terms were not disclosed.
It is understood Philo is the only other shareholder in the venture.
“I have had a very constructive and creative working relationship with LVMH for many years. So it is a natural progression for us to reconnect on this new project. I have greatly appreciated discussing new ideas with Bernard Arnault and Delphine Arnault and I am delighted to be embarking on this adventure with their support,” she added.
Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH, called Philo “one of the most talented designers of our time.”
“We have known her and appreciated her for a long time. Phoebe contributed to the success of the group through her magnificent creations over several years,” he said. “With this in mind, I am very happy to partner with Phoebe on her entrepreneurial adventure and wish her great success.”
In December 2017, D.M. Fashion Book reported that Philo exited LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton owned – Céline after 10 years (see it here). The Fall 2018 collection, presented in March 2018 during Paris Fashion Week, was the last collection crafted by the designer.
It is unusual, though not unprecedented, for LVMH to back a new brand. Its core expertise lies in animating heritage brands like Louis Vuitton, Dior and Fendi with buzzy designers, celebrity ambassadors, retail razzmatazz and spectacular press and client events.
On May 10, 2019, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton officially confirmed a luxury label with Riri, under the Fenty banner (see it here). The start-up came up against the coronavirus crisis and LVMH and the pop star paused the luxury maison last February (see it here).
The conglomerate is instead going to focus on Rihanna’s booming beauty business with Fenty Beauty and Fenty Skin. Private equity giant, L Catterton, which LVMH owns a stake in, has also led a $115 million Series B fundraising round for Rihanna’s successful lingerie label, Savage x Fenty, to support its growth and upcoming expansion into retail.
Prior to that, LVMH famously set up a couture house for Christian Lacroix in 1987, and sold it to Falic Group in 2005.
Minority stakes are not usually the norm either for the French luxury giant, though that’s the case with Jonathan Anderson’s London-based fashion house JW Anderson, for example. LVMH took a 46 percent stake in 2013 in tandem with hiring the designer as creative director of Spanish leather goods house Loewe.
It is understood Philo has kept in close contact with the Arnault family, particularly Delphine, and will continue to have access to the group’s brain trust and real-estate muscle as she develops her indie venture.
The distribution plan and other details could not immediately be learned, though Philo had long shunned online commerce, preferring boutiques filled with marble plinths and large plants when she was at Celine.
Philo is a graduate from London’s Central Saint Martins. In the 10 years she was at Celine, Philo helped lift the label’s annual sales from €200 million to more than €700 million, according to analysts. (LVMH does not break out figures for Céline).
Philo studied with Stella McCartney and followed her when she took the creative director job from Karl Lagerfeld at Chloé in 1997. When McCartney left Chloé to set up her own fashion brand in a joint-venture with what was then called Gucci Group, now part of the conglomerate Kering, Philo was left out of the project and then CEO Ralph Toledano exploited the rift to place her in the top job in 2001. Philo left five years later having significantly boosted Chloé’s sales revenues. Philo succeeded in accelerating Chloé’s rejuvenation and catapulting it into the high-margin leather goods business. She became known for fashions that deftly blended masculine elements like trousers and such feminine fare as frilly blouses. During her tenure, Chloé’s look was widely emulated by fast-fashion chains and she created hit handbags like the Paddington and Silverado.
She resigned from Chloé in 2006 for personal reasons, citing a wish to spend more time with her young children.
Three years later, after lengthy discussions with LVMH about launching a namesake brand, Philo wound up at the helm of Céline, which offered an immediate platform for her designs, since the brand had boutiques in top locations around the world and factories for leather goods.
Philo debuted a more fashion-forward, minimalist aesthetic at Céline, tinged with artsy touches, and her collections exceeded all revenue expectations and won wide acclaim, despite her reticence about e-commerce and an arms-length policy with the press.
In the past, we’ve mentioned that Philo was reportedly offered Raf Simons’ former position at Dior following his departure in 2015, but the parties encountered difficulties in closing the deal when Philo insisted upon bringing her team with her to Dior (see it here). Eventually, Maria Grazia Chiuri was appointed Christian Dior‘s new artistic director, the first women to hold the position in the French house’s 70-year history (see it here).
Philo was succeeded at Celine by Hedi Slimane, who dropped the accent in the label’s name and reoriented the brand toward retro-tinged, bourgeois French chic (see it here).
Photos Credit: Courtesy of Phoebe Philo