Phoebe Philo Sets Digital-First Debut for September

Phoebe Philo will finally debut her namesake brand in September with what appears to be a digital-first approach. On Thursday, the famously social media-shy design star launched the Instagram account @phoebephilo, announcing plans to unveil her first collection for the brand via, which will open for customer registrations in July.

Philo has been largely silent since July 2021, when she announced her return to fashion after a three year hiatus with a new brand backed by LVMH, which has a minority stake in the venture.

“Being in my studio and making once again has been both exciting and incredibly fulfilling,” she told BoF at the time. “I am very much looking forward to being back in touch with my audience and people everywhere. To be independent, to govern and experiment on my own terms is hugely significant to me.”

Since then Philo has been building her team, strengthening the design and business sides of the label with key hires, including former Asos executive Patrik Silén, who started as managing director last May. But the brand’s debut has been delayed more than once.

Philo’s understated, minimalist reinvention of LVMH’s Celine label powered a wildly successful growth spurt, pushing annual sales from €200 million in 2008 to more than €700 million in 2017, the year she stepped down as creative director.

But launching a start-up label, without existing brand awareness and key retail infrastructure, is a difficult proposition, even for star designers like Philo with her fanbase of “Philophiles.” It’s the reason why so few of the industry’s top designers do their own labels.

Philo’s collections were an instant hit with fashion editors, who were regularly documented wearing Celine by early street style bloggers. Getty Images

A Digital-First Approach

The rise of digital distribution has changed the game. It’s far more possible to quickly scale a young brand online than in the physical world, where luxury retail space is expensive and hard to secure.

Building a direct-to-consumer e-commerce business requires greater investment levels than simply wholesaling to third-parties, but it offers better margins and far greater control over everything from customer data to pricing, making it much easier to rapidly test and optimise a strategy. In a noisy market, going direct-to-consumer also allows young labels to send a much clearer brand signal.

Of course, you still need strong creative content and you need to be fluent with social media to attract and engage an audience. Under Philo, Celine was a social media hold out and abstained from selling ready-to-wear online, even as e-commerce became one of luxury’s key growth drivers. And landing on a creative vision that pushes beyond the chic sportswear which defined the designer’s tenure at Celine and that will resonate online is no doubt a challenge

Still, Philo is one of fashion’s most respected and successful designers, and the industry is likely to get behind the venture. So are her devoted fans. In the four hours since launch, Philo’s new Instagram account has clocked up over 50,000 followers. And by opening website registrations in July, ahead of a September debut, Philo stands to build a database that will help her turn her following of ‘Philophiles’ into loyal customers.

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