The eponymous sneaker label of Philéo Landowski, an 18-year-old former intern at Celine, launches tomorrow. And the exclusive stockists for Philéo — which means “I Love” in Ancient Greek — include Comme Des Garçons in Paris and Dover Street Market in both London and New York.
The see now, buy now, launch collection comprises six colorways that are inspired by Parisian night life and synth-driven EBM (electronic body music) techno, in particular.
While the sneakers sit on reassuringly chunky soles, the look is neat and surprisingly ergonomic. The uppers are made either entirely of canvas or a mix of canvas and a sheeny light reflecting fabric called Satellite, which is borrowed from the world of interior design.
Landowski chose it, he said, for its quasi holographic quality recalling the strobe lighting used in dance clubs.
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The sneakers are vegan and genderless, and sizes run from 36 to 44. They are made in Portugal, however the materials are all made on home territory in France.
Philéo will be available starting Sept. 10 at Comme des Garçons Trading Museum, 54 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 75008 Paris, and in store and online at Dover Street Market in London and New York from Sept. 21. Prices range from $325 to $350.
Landowski has quite a pedigree in design. His great grandfather, Paul Landowski, for instance, was the French sculptor of Polish descent who designed the Christ the Redeemer statue that sits atop Corcovado Mountain overlooking Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro.
The young designer has interned twice at Celine, in both its incarnations, old and new. And although he could have got the gig thanks to his name alone, it’s more likely to have been down to his passion and obvious potential.
He secured his first spot when he was just 15 and interned at Celine for the last days of Phoebe Philo’s tenure and the interim period when current Bottega Veneta artistic director Daniel Lee took charge of the brand prior to the appointment of Hedi Slimane. At the time, Lee had been Philo’s second in command. Landowski was invited back for a second stint when Slimane was at the helm.
Landowski and I met at Café Kitsune, a coffee bar in one of the colonnades surrounding Paris’ leafy Palais Royale. He is unaffected — self-possessed without being remotely obnoxious about it. And he seems a whole lot older than his 18 years.
He’s certainly more business savvy than a number of other designers starting out. He co-launched his first business at 13 years old — a brand of freestyle scooters called Bunker Scootering — with the designer Flavien Mollard.
The person he credits as his footwear mentor though is Nina Christen, now also head designer of shoes at Bottega Veneta. “She taught me that there has to be energy and movement in the silhouette of a shoe,” Landowski explained. “That is what makes it beautiful.”
As for sneakers, he’s been an obsessive collector from the age of 14. I asked him if he keeps them as box fresh museum pieces or buys them to wear. But I already guessed the answer: “I like to rock them till they die. I like the idea that they are marked by life.”
For the record, he’s currently rocking a prototype from his spring ’21 collection, already showing considerable wear and tear from a soccer game the other week.
But how does an 18-year-old, albeit a particularly talented and switched on one, manage the command stockists such as DSM and Comme for his first collection?
The Comme des Garçons connection came via an encounter with another mentor, the artist Katerina Jebb. The two met at an exhibition at famous Rive Gauche art bookshop Mazarine which belonged to Philéo’s grandfather.
Jebb introduced him to Comme des Garçons CEO Adrian Joffe in November. Joffe signed up the young designer pretty much on the spot when he saw the collection prototypes. She also created some of her signature scans to inform the launch campaign itself which was shot by another friend, Thomas Chaulet Faria. It features techno/EBM musicians and scenesters including Fred Terror, Lorenzo Lacchesi and Rebeka Warrior.
For Landowski, music is more than just the inspiration for his debut collection. Alongside fashion, it’s another of his passions and he also DJs and produces in his own right. He wants to bridge the gap between the two métiers. “Music can bring so much emotion to everything,” he said. “I think every designer need to hear music to create.”
In his case, “It needs to be loud.”