Fresh style insights, tips and commentary by Michelle Tea, Michael Braithwaite, Leo Plass, Page McBee and Carrie Leilam Love.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Attack of the Intelligent Woman

Wow. Last week's post was heavy, huh! Let's add some levity this week.

BIG NEWS! I have my first real designer crush in ten years. It's on the Paris-based design house, Celine. Really though, it's on Phoebe Philo because Phoebe Philo is the brains behind the much improved Celine look. Celine was originally founded in 1945 as a handmade children's shoe business. Who knew that Post War Paris needed meticulously made shoes for its children? Apparently it did and Celine eventually grew to encompass relatively boring women's designs. Supposedly, Michael Kors reinvigorated the company when he took over as creative director in 1997, but I can't imagine Michael Kors reinvigorating much of anything. He seems best suited for bad tans and designs for unimaginative women from Long Island. To each their own, I suppose.

Enter Phoebe Philo. After taking over as creative director in 2008, she has managed to revamp Celine as a line for fashionable, intelligent women in their 30s. That's me (depending on the day)! Her 2011 resort line has such great highlights as this outfit designed by the few people who are lucky enough to have both long legs AND a long torso:

And then there's this adorable ensemble:

Or my favorite (check out the band of leather ringing the bottom of the skirt):

Sadly, I can't do anything but admire Celine's resort line from afar, as there is never any opportunity for me to wear such squarely summer-chic clothes in the Bay Area. I suppose I could adorn myself and head out to the warmth of the outlying suburbs, but I don't really want to wander around semi-farm country in my resort attire. Hey, cows! One of your kind made the ring at the bottom of my skirt! Thanks?

Since we only ever subtly alternate between Autumn and Spring here, I've begun charting my strategy for when the rest of the Northern Hemisphere catches up and I can begin sporting my new Fall duds. RE-enter Celine. Philo used three words to describe the Fall line: "Strong. Powerful. Reduced." And it is. The lines are smart and clean and each design offers some unexpected element that gives it a unique personality.

Philo's vision manages to straddle the divide between an experimental young adulthood and a sophisticated adulthood. Too often, it seems like we either hold on desperately to the looks we developed at 22 (see my gripe about precious vintage/aka why are you wearing a bow in your hair and that cutesy dress when you're 35 it doesn't make sense or look right) or we're encouraged to graduate into some hellish Anne Taylor (or Michael Kors, that orange s.o.b.) reality. I realize that there are other options and issues beyond this dichotomy, but I'm simply noting what I see around San Francisco and Oakland (and Portland, to some extent) and really, this is just a blog. I can't get into all the details of every subset everywhere. I just know that my days of dressing like a dance party or a pot luck are happily over and I'm not about to get lured into some "business casual" model of adult preppy.

But I can totally wear a navy sweater with a Rolls Royce on it!

Or a turtleneck sweater fit for casual business meetings
or a crisp New England sailing jaunt.

Similarly, the outerwear collection for Celine's Fall line embraces a contemporary version of the "smart woman" a la Katharine Hepburn.

Katharine Hepburn, looking like you wouldn't fuck with her, as usual.

The diversity of Philo's daywear options is incredible, but what might be most striking is her pointed departure from the dress. Nearly every designer in recent memory has relied heavily on the dress as the staple for their collections. How on Earth you would reasonably wear a dress in the Winter or even Fall has always escaped me. Philo, thankfully, has chosen to focus on sweaters, pants suits, tunics, jackets, and coats. Her designs aren't flashy, they're not physically revealing and that's part of what makes them so compelling. Philo, 36, designs for women who are creative, self-possessed and comfortable in their adult sexuality. Thank you, Phoebe Philo. I am woman, hear me confidently and calmly be a wild success.