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.