There’s something to be said about the hold that British designer Phoebe Philo has on the fashion industry. If we’ve learned anything in her absence (and return), it’s that this is simply Philo’s world and we’re all just living in it. The proof is in the frenzy that occurred when it was announced in 2017 that she would be stepping down from her post as creative director at Celine — and that she would be taking her minimal, crisp, and clean approach to design with her. In a panic, the style set began purchasing anything they could get their hands on. According to Nediva Sokoll-Ward, founder of burgeoning vintage fashion hub Quell, the response to Philo’s exit, paired with the excitement around her comeback, means that consumers shopping for “Old Celine” will have to be equal parts savvy and quick to the draw.
“When it was announced that Phoebe was leaving fashion, there was an urgent influx of people buying Philo-era Celine and suddenly [it] became more coveted than ever,” the stylist tells NYLON. “Everyone wanted a taste of the magical touch she brought to the industry. Now with [her] return, I think it’s triggered the same excitement — to have a piece she influenced as a way of preparing to see what she brings to fashion with her own brand.”
Reiterating Sokoll-Ward’s sentiments, editor and fashion historian Martin Lerma adds that part of Philo’s strong appeal comes from her modern take on wardrobe classics. “At any point in time, there are only ever a handful of designers really leading the charge and, whether you care for her designs or not, Philo is certainly among that group,” says Lerma. “Though she was not the only designer working in a minimalist vein while at Celine, Philo helped repopularize the aesthetic and forced people to look at it with fresh eyes.”
As a result, oversized suits have never felt more cool and collared poplin shirts are an absolute must in every well-dressed woman’s wardrobe, regardless of how they categorize their personal style. Philo even introduced us to the leather, pillow clutch silhouette seasons before Daniel Lee created his own iteration for Bottega Veneta. (Before his creative director role, Lee was a designer at Celine under Philo.)
Aside from her influence on design as a whole, Philo was known to churn out quality pieces that were meant to transcend seasons and trends. “When I’m sourcing inventory, Celine is one of the few brands that I allow myself to splurge on simply because I know it will sell and won't be sitting on my shelf for long,” Sokoll-Ward divulges on her process. “While there is definitely a cult following of ‘Old Celine,’ customers know it's a good investment and they're getting a quality-constructed piece of clothing.”
Now, months before Philo fans get a look at what the designer has in store for her own eponymous label, the demand for her easy-to-wear clothing and “It” accessories are back on the rise (as if it ever truly plateaued). For those loyal legions that are hoping to get a piece of Old Celine by Phoebe Philo in the meantime, keep the following shopping tips in mind to ensure you don’t come up empty-handed.
How To Find Vintage Celine By Phoebe Philo Tip No. 1: Know When To Pounce Vs. When To Pass
Curating solid pickups from one of Philo’s collections at Celine includes being strategic. Apart from doing your due diligence beforehand, serious shoppers must also know when to act fast and when to leave something on the rack. For starters, don’t force it. If an item isn’t your size, style, or is in less-than-desirable shape for the price, you may want to skip it. Buying an item just because it was designed by someone whose work you admire will often leave you with a piece you can’t wear and feel guilty getting rid of, so it will just sit in the back of your closet. Instead, focus on finding pieces that excite you and will work hard in your wardrobe for seasons to come. If you come across something that fits the bill, consider it a sign to go for it, which leads to the next point…
How To Find Vintage Celine By Phoebe Philo Tip No. 2: Don’t Be Afraid To Splurge
For those that have the means, when you find a highly-coveted piece from Philo’s tenure at Celine, be prepared to make a small investment. In other words, most sellers’ pricing will be quite competitive and could seem a little steep (depending on the product). But ultimately, if you aren’t willing to splurge, there’s a good chance that someone out there will. Of course, this isn’t always reason enough to buy something, but if you feel like it’s one of those purchases that will keep you up at night if you don’t make it yours, it could be worth spending a little extra coin. One must also consider that because Old Celine is in such high demand, one may be hard-pressed to find it somewhere else — let alone at a lower price point.
How To Find Vintage Celine By Phoebe Philo Tip No. 3: Get Specific
Which is why, unlike navigating more generalized categories, when we’re talking about “Old Celine,” the more specific you can get the better. Part of the beauty of Philo’s approach to design is that it’s far from flashy and that if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you may miss it completely. The other thing to consider is that while most resellers know which collection a piece is from, having your sights set on something instantly recognizable from her decade-long era will help guarantee you’re getting Philo’s Celine and not something that made its debut years earlier. On the off chance you’re not sure where to start, Lerma suggests investing in all the things that aided in the brand’s climb to cult status. “While [she] had obvious success with softly-constructed garments, like her famous printed silk-twill sets, the tailoring and the leather goods are the standouts for me,” he explains on what he identifies as her most memorable designs. “The razor-sharp shoulders of her jackets, coats, and blazers were beautifully executed. Speaking of bags alone, she created several styles that still look great a decade on thanks to their minimal look and distinctive silhouettes. I'm sure they will continue to be reinterpreted by the house's creative directors for many years to come.”
How To Find Vintage Celine By Phoebe Philo Tip No. 4: Refer Back To The Runway
Which brings us to the next point: Do your own research. Yes, there’s a good chance that whoever is selling Old Celine is aware of its value proposition, but it doesn’t hurt to do a quick sweep of the internet to know exactly which collection a specific piece is from. Not only will it just confirm that you’re getting exactly what you want, but it can also offer additional info needed in order to make an informed purchase. That said, with more than 10 years worth of looks to sift through, your best bet is to do a deep dive on Instagram accounts dedicated entirely to Philo’s era at the luxury house, including @oldceline, @oldcelinemarket, and @oldcelinearchive. Aside from finding a grid filled with highlights from the era, you can also rely on these pages for a well-curated selection of pieces available for purchase straight from the feed. So if you’re in the market for Old Celine, drop a follow on Instagram to better your Celine archive resources and references.
How To Find Vintage Celine By Phoebe Philo Tip No. 5: When In Doubt, Hire Help
If you’re not really sure where to start when it comes to shopping Philo-made Celine, don’t immediately rule out the idea of hiring a professional to help find exactly what you’re looking for. Whether it’s finding a personal shopper for the task or hiring a professional vintage seller using their connections to find Philo’s coveted Celine duck boots, there are a few different routes to consider. However, it’s worth noting that if you do decide to look for help elsewhere, a finders’ fee should be expected. Translation: Be sure to factor in the cost of sourcing when thinking of the budget for your new, Old Celine find.
How To Find Vintage Celine By Phoebe Philo Tip No. 6: Stay Ready
As cliché as it may sound, a big part of successfully snagging one of Philo’s creations for Celine is staying ready, so you don’t ever have to get ready. This means that once you get serious about your search, be prepared to take the plunge at any given time. Whether it’s winning an eBay bidding war or stumbling upon a local vintage shop with a few good finds, the common denominator in both is staying ready. Thinking too long (or too hard) can result in you missing out on that amazing buy.