photo via the Internet
Last Saturday I kicked off my Vogue Festival experience by listening to the talk with Phoebe Philo. Alexandra Shulman tried to squeeze her like a lemon asking about her inspiration, stubbornness, work ethic and keeping the work-home balance right. I have to say that I have admired her design for ages (manifesting it mostly by wearing Zara clothes) but as she keeps her life private, I had no clue 'what she was really like'. She came across as an extremely strong person. Nevertheless, I got the impression that she is slightly tired...
Phoebe stressed that she appreciates the fact that she is able to run a French fashion house from London and enjoys wandering around the city unrecognised (really? don't you know who she is, people?). She is pretty down-to-earth with her comments like 'I used to travel but now I have children'. As petite as her physique is, she appeared on the stage in a rather strong manner wearing an oversized silky top and a pair of outstanding flats. Asked about the Celine DNA she said that it was not an iconic brand and she found it quite liberating. The ability to do whatever she wants enabled her to produce some fantastic designs that get copied on the high street (thank you, Zara, for this blessing as Celine is rather pricy). Funnily enough, when asked about the brand copying her she quoted Coco Chanel by saying 'Imitation is the highest form of flattery'. Even though she tried to come across that she is ok with it, I got the feeling that she was not being honest... Maybe it was just me though. Or was it?
'I find mediocracy hard'. As a passionate person she cares about what she does and questions the point of doing so if one does not care. Do it with passion or don't do it at all, right? I got a bit confused when she confessed that after a show she cannot look at clothes for a month. Can one get fed up with their passion? Is passion slightly interrupted when it becomes 'a job'? But is being the creative head of Celine 'a job'?
Phoebe also portrays a strong feminist side to her ideas. 'Within fashion I don't thing gender is relevant. It's not easier for men than women'. Her pieces are simple and form an integral image. They look great together in any combination. The conversation started floating towards the body image in the fashion industry and that was another point where the audience could have got confused... Philo stressed that women nowadays get a message that they are not good enough. By her designs she wants ladies to feel strong and powerful. Ladies of any shape and size. Well, as much as she said that everybody can be seductive, sexy and powerful, I do not think that she makes clothes in sizes to fit all shapes... It really makes me wonder when designers produce statements against the 'domination of skinny' and yet do not transfer this idea to the racks.
As a listener I asked myself thousands of questions during this short interview. It is a different experience in comparison to just reading it from the glossy Vogue pages. Putting a person to the words was most enlightening. Even though I could not help but sense that Phoebe is simply tired, I still admire her for being able to say that she simply won't do things she doesn't like. Nowadays we force ourselves to follow through with ideas/projects even though we do not feel comfortable about it. Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for assertiveness. It still exists. Do not let it die. And thank you Phoebe for sending this message to the universe. For that I forgive you the lack of enthusiasm between 2:30 and 3:30 on Saturday, 29th of March 2014.