What would Céline be without Phoebe Philo? The brand’s modern identity―and thereby success―have become inextricable from the designer’s minimalist aesthetic since she took over the French House in 2008. But now that rumors are swirling of her imminent departure, it’s only natural to consider a Céline sans-Phoebe. Instead of speculating on her future replacements, we’re paying tribute to her predecessor, Michael Kors. With all his billion-dollar IPOs and seasons of Project Runway, it’s easy to forget the loquacious designer―who couldn’t be more different from too-cool Philo―effectively paved the way for Céline’s growth.
Back in 1997, the all-American designer was tapped by LVMH (which had recently acquired Céline) to revive the leather goods brand originally founded in 1945 as a made-to-measure chidlren’s shoe boutique. At the time, Kors’ appointment was significant because it coincided with two other mega American designers landing at historic European labels: Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton and Narciso Rodriguez at Loewe.
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. A lot of it resembled his namesake collection presented in New York, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing―at least for sales. There were loads of well-cut, sporty separates, cashmere knits, and opulent furs for fall. His spring collections were often inspired by jet set locales like Monte Carlo or Tahiti (Kors loves a beach), with tanned models dripping in gold sauntering down the runway in bold looks ready for la playa, a Miami night club, or maybe the casino.
All in all, Kors did his thing at Céline (and did it well) through 2004, when he stepped down to focus on his own rapidly growing company. In the aftermath, Kors called out LVMH for barely paying attention to his work. “Was I mistreated? No. Was I neglected? Yes,” Kors infamously said after Céline’s Fall 2004 show, his final for the brand. “It’s just that I never felt anyone was watching the smaller companies at all, but everybody was spending their time on the two first-born children—Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior. In a way, if you’re a nice kid, no one pays attention to you. If you’re a bad kid, you get spoiled.”
The four years between Kors and Philo were basically a black hole for Céline, with a series of inconsequential creative directors who lacked point of view. Everyone knows Philo transformed Céline into the luxury juggernaut it is today, but very few recognize that Céline was nothing when Kors first took over, so he deserves some credit, too.
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createdAt:Wed, 18 Oct 2017 18:46:37 +0000