How Phoebe Philo Defined the ‘Ugly’ Shoe at Céline

Celine spring 2013 fur pumps
Yellow mink pumps at Phoebe Philo's Céline spring/summer '13 show.
Jacques Brinon/AP/Rex/Shutterstock

During her 10-year tenure as creative director at Céline, Phoebe Philo’s pragmatic yet luxurious designs also became insanely buzzy “it” items. Her intimate and innate knowledge of what women both need (the practical, the multipurpose, the appropriate) and want (the fantastical, the sumptuous, the power statement) led to best-sellers like the Luggage tote and Trapeze bag — not to mention an approximate $500 million increase in sales for the brand since she took helm in 2008.

Philo also applied this design philosophy to the footwear at Céline, and that duality spurred the creation of pieces that now define the “ugly” shoe movement that continues to dominate the runways (a movement that, frankly, needs to lose “ugly” as its operative adjective). After all, it was Philo who debuted orthopedic, Birkenstock-style sandals — with fur lining — for Céline’s spring 2013 runway. Since then, Birkenstock has debuted its own shearling-lined version of its iconic Arizona sandal.

There were more subtle examples, too, of her comfortable luxury in shoes. Geometric heels from the artsy spring ’14 collection and inverted triangles on white leather pumps from the fall ’16 collection were sleek and architectural but also provided more stability. Block heels, in stabilizing mid-heights, were present in various collections through the decade. And Philo’s penchant for wearing Stan Smith sneakers while taking a bow on the runway undoubtedly helped to cement the shoe’s reign as the sneaker for the fashion industry (also inspiring countless trickle-down iterations of the bright white sneaker from both fashion and athletic brands).

When Philo shows her last collection for Céline in March at Paris Fashion Week, the footwear is likely to make the same careful, comfortable-luxe statement. After that, it’s up to the incoming designer to take the next steps.

Fur-lined sandals, spring ’13

Celine Spring 2013 Shoes Philo’s fur-lined orthopedic-style shoes at Céline’s spring ’13 show. Gi/Penske Media/REX/Shutterstock

Architectural geometric heels, spring ’14

Céline spring 2014 architectural heels Sculptural heels were part of the artful spring ’14 collection.

Elastic ballet block heels, spring ’15

A street-style shot of the elastic ballet-slipper-like block heels that Philo showed with Céline’s spring 2015 collection

Mink-lined pumps, spring ’13

Céline fur pumps spring 2013 Mink-lined pumps were also part of the spring ’13 collection.

Red leather ankle boots, spring ’17

Céline spring 2017 collection red leather booties Red leather booties with a higher heel, part of the spring ’17 collection. REX Shutterstock.

White leather pumps, fall ’16

Geometric white leather pumps with inverted triangle heels, pointy toes and a V-shaped front, from the fall ’16 collection. Giovanni Giannoni/Fairchild.

Mismatched block-heeled sandals, spring ’17

celine Spring 2017 Ankle-wrap leather block heel sandals with toe detailing from Céline’s spring ’17 collection. REX Shutterstock.

Woven bejeweled block heels, spring ’17

Céline woven block heels, Woven block heels from Céline’s spring ’17 collection. Giovanni Gionnini.

Oversized tassels on two-toned loafers, spring ’18

Celine spring 2018 tassel loafers Loafers with extra-long tassels at the spring ’18 runway show.

Gold metallic wedge heels, fall ’12

Block wedge heels on gold metallic pumps with white soles for the fall ’12 collection.

Low-heeled white Chelsea boots with square toes, spring ’16

Celine Spring 2016 Paris Fashion Week White low-heeled Chelsea boots with square toes and black accents, spring ’16 collection. Giovanni Giannoni / Fairchild.