Céline is a luxury French fashion house founded in 1945 by Céline Vipiana. Since then, it has become a label known for its beautiful, sincere and genuine products which empower women and give them joy in dressing and living for themselves. Until recently and for the last ten years, its creative direction has been headed by Phoebe Philo. As the brand is ushered into a new chapter under the leadership of its next creative director Hedi Slimane, we take the chance to revisit the rich history of Céline.
1945: Céline was founded in Paris by Céline Vipiana and her husband. It was originally conceived to be a made-to-measure children’s shoe boutique. They opened their first boutique at 52 Rue de Malte in Paris in 1945. By 1948, they had opened three more.
1960s: The French luxury house expanded during the sixties with adult footwear, handbags, and a women’s ready-to-wear collection of couture sportswear or “fashion for everyone.” A pioneer in the sportswear genre, Céline’s ready-to-wear dominated this emerging market.
1970s: Céline redesigned its logo with the intertwined “C” Sulky canvas, linked to the Arc-de-Triomphe. At that time, Céline began its expansion in the world with the opening of various boutiques in Monte Carlo, Geneva, Hong Kong, Lausanne, Toronto and Beverly Hills.
By 1987, the brand owned 87 boutiques over the world.
1987: Bernard Arnault, CEO of Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH), decided to buy into Céline’s capital. However, it was only in 1996 that the brand was integrated into the LVMH group for 2.7 billion French francs ($540 million). LVMH propelled the brand to fame with the opening of a boutique at 36 avenue Montaigne in Paris.
1997: Michael Kors was named the label’s lead designer for ready-to-wear, and in 1999 became the creative director of Céline. Until Kors came along, Céline was never really known for its ready-to-wear, and the designer brought his signature variety of easy, luxurious sportswear to the table.
In the same year, Céline Vipiana, the fashion house’s original founder, passed away at 84 of age. She was head of her company for 52 years.
2004: Michael Kors left Céline to focus on his own designs. “I feel like Carrie Bradshaw,” Kors said, referring to the “Sex and the City” character who left Paris in the series’ final episode. “I’m not sorry to leave Paris at all. I’ve done a great job, but it’s time to move on and do my own thing.”
2008: Phoebe Philo was appointed as full-time successor in 2008 after leaving Chloe. Through her vision, the brand re-discovered its former prestige.
“I am not a big fan of women being sexualised through clothes”, Philo stated in an interview with Vogue’s Alexandra Schulman in 2014. Philo’s Céline was not interested in providing clothes for the male gaze, but for the female wearing them. Instead of following trends, Philo developed a wardrobe for the women who had somewhere to go and something to achieve.
Philo’s distaste for sexualization is also evident in her subversion of the “pretty shoe”. She has sent fur-lined sliders (”furkenstocks”), mink pumps, elastic ballet slipper block heels among other footwear inventions down the catwalk. Although they definitely divided opinion at the time, they all emerged to become defining looks of Philo’s Céline.
2014: Phoebe Philo made headlines by choosing none other than iconic American writer Joan Didion to be the star of Céline’s spring/summer 2015 campaign. Philo broke the mould by making the 80-year-old its campaign star – and other luxury fashion brands soon followed suit in embracing mature women, including Saint Laurent with Joni Mitchell.
2017: LVMH announced the departure of Phoebe Philo. Over the past decade, she helped lift Céline’s annual sales from €200 million to more than €700 million, according to analysts. The London-born designer won British Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Awards in 2010 for the second time. In 2011, she received the International Award at the CFDA Fashion Awards.
Just like she did when she headed up Chloé, Philo managed to elevate a number of Céline totes to ‘It’ bags. From the Trapeze and the Trio to the Luggage, the brand was able to compete with the likes of Louis Vuitton and Gucci in a way that it never did before.
2018: In January 2018, it is announced that Hedi Slimane, who was creative directing Saint Laurent from 2012-2016, will become creative director of Céline.
The reaction to the news of Slimane’s appointment came fast, furious and divided. Along with Philo, Slimane has proven himself to be one of the most commercially bankable designers – but they are indeed very different designers.
What will Hedi Slimane mean for Céline? Only time will tell!