Celine, YSL Strut Officegirl Chic

It was the moment the fashion world has been waiting for, the return of wildly popular designer Phoebe Philo, whose calm and collected debut spring-summer 2010 collection for Celine proved that after her several-year-long hiatus she still has the magic touch.

Philo’s clean-lined basics, like A-line skirts and sheath dresses, garnered thunderous applause from the show’s audience of fashion insiders for whom jaded is the normal etat d’esprit.

It was a good day for women looking for fashion-forward workaday chic, between Philo’s razor-cut business staples and Stefano Pilati’s chic minimalist suits and skits for Yves Saint Laurent. Pilati, another critical darling, continued to prove his prowess as a master tailor with a dark, subversive streak.

What Celine and YSL did for business clothes, Stella McCartney did for the summer wardrobe, sending out an easy, wearable collection of vacation basics.

Leonard continued to churn out the adorable flower print jersey dresses, skirts and jumpers that have been the Paris-based label’s signature since the late 1960s.

Italy’s Giambattista Valli provided the day’s dose of drama — mild, by Paris standards — with a neo-romantic collection of cocktail numbers and swingy coats covered with enough feathers to make even the ugliest of ducklings into a swan.

Tuesday — day six of Paris’ marathon nine-day-long ready-to-wear displays — includes shows by heavy hitters Chanel and Valentino, as well as French eccentric Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and British bad boy Alexander McQueen.


Expectations couldn’t have been higher. Monday’s was Philo’s first proper runway show since she left the fashion world in 2006 to spend more time with her family. There was a palpable sense of nervousness in the air, a feeling that the audience of hundreds of fashion editors and buyers from top stores around the world were waiting with collectively bated breath.

And then came the clothes: clean-lined sheath dresses and A-line skirts in mossy and tan leather, simple poplin shirts, creamy, romantic blouses and perfectly tailored wide-leg trousers in featherweight caramel wool. The clothes had little adornment beyond discreet leather finishings — and indeed they needed no sequins, beading, baubles or gimmicks to shine.

Speaking to reporters in a subterranean vault — the show was held in a former bank on the swanky Place Vendome jewelry hub — Philo said she had eased her way into the spring-summer 2010 collection.

“It’s just the beginning. It felt like, just take it easy, just start easy,” the affable British designer said.

“It’s nice to have the bubble of expectations burst. That feels good,” Philo told reporters as she received congratulatory hugs and kisses. “Sometimes what people get into their head is unachievable.”

Not so say her fans, from fellow designers to top fashion editors.

“Everybody is so excited. She has such a unique take on what women really want to wear,” gushed Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief Glenda Bailey in a backstage interview. “When she was at Chloe, it was all very … soft and very girly. And I have to say that Phoebe and her customer have grown up. It was really womanly dressing, like we like to see.”

Philo replaced Croatian designer Ivana Omazic, who spent three years at the helm at Celine. Founded after World War II, the brand forged a reputation for excellence in leather goods but has since fallen on hard times, with management struggling to modernize its image.

If anything can manage that, it’s Philo’s trousers.

“Those pants, she cuts like no other, they’re really perfect,” said Bazaar’s Bailey. Everyone knows there’s nothing like a perfect pair of pants to forge an eternally loyal customer base.


Pilati built on previous collections of clean-lined, mainly black-and-white pieces, delivering a collection dominated by puffed-sleeved poplin blouses, neat A-line skirts, cropped jackets with leather touches.

But, as always, Pilati went beyond the sort of workaday basics that can be seen on other runways, embellishing the garments with kicky touches — like a horizontal slit on the hemline of a pair of razor-cut shorts or little bows on the back of a vampy bustier dress — that set his collections apart.

The collection notes mentioned the value of work, and there was a vaguely Puritanical feeling to the show. Perhaps it was the apron dresses, the high collars, the full sleeves or all that starched poplin.

One look — an oversized Puritan collared shirt paired, oddly, with a pair of leather short shorts — was 17th century Plymouth Colony on top and 1950s-era Vegas showgirl on the bottom. But that and an ankle-length white skirt dotted with oversized strawberry appliques that evoked Strawberry Shortcake were the sole eyebrow-raisers in the very strong show.


It was drizzling outside, but the catwalk radiated sunshine as models strutted their stuff in casual chic silk shantung suits, short denim skirts and off-the shoulder dresses in primary color prints that were begging to mambo.

“For summer, it’s not about aggression or power, it’s about being positive and being a real woman,” McCartney told reporters in a backstage interview. “For me, those were real women coming down the runway.”

The real women in the packed audience appeared to agree and gave McCartney a whoop of approval as she took a bow.

Her father, former Beatle Paul McCartney — who shared his front row perch with companion Nancy Shevell and actress Gwyneth Paltrow — called the show “parfait,” or perfect in French, and gave it a thumbs up.

“I loved everything she does. She’s my baby,” he told reporters, shouting over his own voice singing the 1967 hit “She’s Leaving Home.”


Leonard gave a shout-out to its Japanese customer base with a collection inspired by Imari, 17th-century ceramics from Kyoto.

Ankle-length dresses in featherweight chiffon were printed with koi fish, flowers and artful curlicues in navy, peacock and sky blues — frequent motifs in Imari porcelain — with artful metallic finishings at the neckline.

Imari “is the most luxury porcelain in the world, all hand-painted, and usually it’s only found in museums … (though) I eat off of my own collection,” said CEO Daniel Tribouillard, who has long played a role in the label’s design. “I wanted to take these calm, peaceful designs off of plates and give them to our clients.”

The rest of the collection was classic Leonard, flowing jersey with oversized flowers in pastels and Art Deco styles. Some of the knee-skimming sundresses were cinched at the waist with red skinny belts, while others had wide Japanese obi belts slung low around the models’ hips.

The house also served up jumpers, among the hottest looks on Paris runways this season. The generously cut coveralls, in strapless and tank cuts, were the perfect summer getaway wear, easy to slip into and even easier to pack.


There were feathers everywhere. The plumage, dainty ostrich feathers in scarlet, emerald, white and black, covered the skirts of cocktail dresses with transparent bodices and quivered daintily across the shoulders of wide-cut day coats.

Even many of the featherless looks had tiers of finely shredded chiffon that looked like it dreamed of one day becoming feathers.

But Valli — who last season sent out dramatic, peacock feather-covered gowns and coats — also delivered less fluffy looks this time around, sending out bold dresses and 1950s style coats in a graphic black-and-white print. There was also a sizable contingent of oversized ocelot prints, like on a swingy coat hung all around with a row of long black fringe.

Italian party girl Margherita Missoni was one of several celebrity guests, including Mary-Kate Olsen, to gush about Monday’s collection and give Valli air kisses backstage after the show.

“I loved it. It was one of my favorite collections by Giambattista in the past years,” said Missoni, whose grandfather founded the mythic Missoni knitwear house.

Asked what particular pieces she had her eye on, she responded “many, many, many.”