With selfies, Snapchat vernissages and screaming crowds craning for a view of Kendall Jenner’s essentially, fashion shows in 2015 can feel like wannabe circus rock concerts. What catwalk events do not often characterize oneself as like are prologues to the Frieze art fair. Unless, of course the trade-mark is question is the hugely influential Céline.
For her spring/summer depict on Sunday, the label’s creative director, Phoebe Philo, commissioned the Danish artist Thomas Poulsen, who plies under the name FOS, to create the catwalk space. Guests drag invitations with dollops of poured resin puddled throughout them walked into a venue divided by large laminations of ripstop nylon in orange, blue and yellow hanging from the ceiling rigging. The soundtrack, which happened without a melody, had been conceived by Philo and FOS and “reflected a colourless energy, sound and rhythm to create an immersive feeling”, revealed the brand. With Céline clothes also the de facto flat of the female gallerists, the arty credentials were stacked exaggerated.
On the catwalk the lofty intent of the soundtrack made sense. The store was packed with many seemingly discordant ideas and no fasten on standout theme to pull it together; no snappy portmanteau to downspout out, to inspire the design teams at Zara. But as ever with Céline, this awkwardness was the solicitation’s strength. There aren’t many designers earning a good-looking profit for their bosses who can send out a collection that could feasibly be painted as the tailoring of 1980s west London, with the leather tabards and hand-sewn shoes of the tickety-boo fire of London, and Sade’s hair and makeup. There are flatten fewer who could make that into agenda-leading opulent clothes.
The first group was a white silk negligee dress with black belabour and creases that looked as if they came from orderly packaging. Slicked-back hair, bright red lips and tough ankle boots fulled the look. Models strode down a dirt track of a catwalk, against the tent-like backdrop. There was a in doubt sense of survival camp about it all. Backstage, the designer was characteristically aslant. “The idea was ‘what does it feel like to wear outfits?’” she said.
Mock if you like, but Philo’s take on taste has been to put women – her loyal customers who actually wear the outfits – first. She understands that the relationship a woman has with her apparel – does it make her feel confident or constrained? – is a act as much as an intellectual concept.
So who is the Céline woman next summer? “As in all cases I want her to be strong. To be going somewhere even if she is sitting flat.” What this meant on the catwalk was a certain toughness to the garbs: shoulders were large and curved, trousers were spread and tapered and finished at an awkward ankle length, there were boilersuit inside outs. It could be described loosely as a haute capable look. Aesthetically daring shoes look like they are here to stay at Céline. The draughtsman herself has eschewed the skate shoes she made so prominent in view of the brand’s elasticated, chunky-heeled pumps.
Philo’s Céline has subdued on a refusal to play the fashion game. Choosing an art collaboration, to a certain extent than participating in catwalk’s social media circus, was not a her. FOS and Céline are a natural fit. The artist, whose work ranges from speculative video to creating low-income housing, has already been commissioned by Philo to originate installations in Céline stores and headquarters. Both prefer anonymity on the internet. Philo has no collective media presence and Céline is one of the few brands not to have embraced e-commerce; its CEO, Marco Gobbetti, recently ceremonial that it was important to touch the clothes, and that much of what is paramount is lost online. FOS, meanwhile, hasn’t updated his website since 2003.