Like many fashion females, I fondly recall Phoebe Philo’s designs for Celine – the vision of a woman comfortable enough in her own skin to wear loose clothes and polo necks if she felt like it, confident enough to wear flat shoes to the office and to order a glass of Talisker in a bar alone (and hold the ice.) Feminine enough to lust after baroque pearl earrings, and a well proportioned handbag, not to mention high heels – if the mood took her. Bra or no bra, she freed her nipple beneath that roll neck jumper if it tickled her weekend fancy, and paired the look with her now infamous fur-kenstocks – the fur lined sandals that Philo popularised.
In an era of #metoo, when women should be able to wear whatever they like, (and #mentoo!) Philo’s Celine was the very vision of a liberated 21st Century woman, and boy did I want in. Yet when I went to the boutique to buy my blazer, much to my horror, it didn’t fit. The shoulders drowned my petite frame, and the elongated sleeves swung alongside my body like a corpse. The emerald and pearl earrings weighed down my lobes, and the waist of the dress hung about my hips.
In a disappointed daze I wandered down the Avenue Montaigne to Heidi Slimane’s St. Laurent a few doors down.
If Phoebe Philo is frequently described as the thinking woman’s designer, Slimane’s vision is perhaps portrayed as the opposite – a very chic, very rock and roll hot mess. Yet somewhere in the back of my mind, I remembered my earlier days in the fashion industry in the early noughties, and Slimane’s groundbreaking work for Dior Homme, with the impeccable tailoring that slim girls and even slimmer guys lusted after.
And that’s when I found it. The perfect navy blue blazer. Boxy enough to frame my shoulders, but petite enough not to look like I was wearing my father’s jacket. Just the right volume to wear over a dress or blouse, or fit under a roomier trench coat. Matt – not at all vulgar silver buttons, and a hand finished lapel. Impeccable. It immediately felt like my own. And suddenly, much to my surprise, Slimane was my new super hero. Whilst I still didn’t relate to the vision of Los Angeles youth culture, by way of Boulevard St Germain, that the brand pedalled, the cut of the basics was undeniably chic.
And that’s the thing, there are going to be the brands that we relate to, and those that actually fit and make our own (and you can still hang your old Celine bag atop your Heidi Slimane blazer!) Slimane is fashions grand master of product. In his former role as Creative Director of St Laurent, he was perhaps simply expressing the commercial zeitgeist of the moment, in his ability to push out perfect products – a strategy that has later been adopted by Gucci’s Alessandro Michele.
Now that Slimane is at Celine, as Emily Petrarca so perfectly put it in her review for ‘The Cut,’ he will stay, “steadfast in his process: simplify, refine, rinse, repeat. That’s what made him the big bucks before, and LVMH is betting that he’ll do it again.” Bloomberg reports that, “the French luxury conglomerate wants to double or triple Celine’s sales within five years, adding new product categories to transform it into a megabrand,” growing as much as 15% a year. And it won’t just be the grungy slips of girls and boys buying it. You can be sure that amongst the rails at retail, there will be plenty of classic separates for every kind of woman (and man – with the brand’s expansion into menswear.)
I work with countless female executives who tell me how difficult it is to find work appropriate garments (that you can choose to wear with a bra!) There are in fact plenty of brands making desirable dresses and suitable separates, that you can style into your vision of a very modern woman – whatever that may be – even if you end up finding them at unexpected places.
Get to know which brands basics are right for your proportions, and stock buy in different colours, and wear in different ways, with no need to constantly buy new outfits for different occasions. Joseph makes beautiful basics for a longer leaner lady, whilst soon to launch Parisian label Salon Septième’s silky wide pants and Lauren Hutton inspired blouses, work with all body shapes, and are of outstanding quality. Nadège Vanhee Cybulski at Hermes creates timeless luxurious pieces, that can blend with anything on anyone, classic cashmere polo necks can be sourced at Eric Bompard or Loro Piana, whilst Chanel’s seasonal tweed jackets come in a variety of cuts for different body types…And then of course, lets wait and see what Slimane’s new Celine will bring in stores…for wannabe rock and roll superstars, and working women alike.
And if you’re in doubt, hire a style-whisperer…
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