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Experimental feature

At Céline, designer Phoebe Philo has brilliantly occupied the space in which artistic and commercial currency coexist. Her show, staged between tiered neon seats at the Tennis Club de Paris, was full of editors wearing items from her SS16 collection, often the exact kind of difficult designs — bovver boots, curve-waisted coats in a mustardy tweed — that take a while to reach maturation in the consumer mind.

Sometimes you don’t want to see now, buy now, you need to have a little think about it first. It’s why creatives are currently obsessed with this word “desirability” in the six-month period before stuff gets into store.

Ironic, perhaps, that since an in-house statement stipulating Philo will be staying at Céline for the immediate future, her AW16 show was a study in “possibilities: the possibilities inherent in the wardrobe, in the woman, and in life”. The palette was stripped right back to blacks, beiges and yellow: a canary coloured furry coat provided the only real clout of colour, while the silhouette was trapezoid, layered and liberated. Tunic dresses, sheer and oversized, were worn over wide-flared trousers and silky, 10-denier knit tops wrapped over shirts. As with Balenciaga, there were lots of trenchcoats. Many were sleeveless, and left strappy and flapping. The bags were tactile, their straps wrapped around the hand like bandages.

“Every one of the looks was touched by hand,” said Philo, who places great emphasis on the slow build of her design process, and cares deeply about whether clothes “feel right”.

Feeling right doesn’t always look quite right at first. That huge silhouette, the Big Bird robe coat, the exaggerated jagged collars, the flesh-toned polo necks — they weren’t designed to be immediately accessible. It’s transgressive, but only very gently so. And thank God for that. You’ve got six months to catch up.

Photographs: Catwalking

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