It’s a kink of the current fashion system that the bigger and more lavish the hoopla surrounding the catwalk shows, the more significant the small detail becomes. This week in Paris for instance, the fashionable jeans to be seen in (yes, for the moment, jeans are permissible on the front row) are distinguished from the unfashionable by their frayed, kick- flare hems and the number of millimetres they hover above the ankle. Woe betide the amateur who fails to read the signposting. It is coding to rival anything at IBM.

Phoebe Philo, creative director at Céline understands the power of semi-covert semaphore. The Céline trench-coat, which was at the heart of her new autumn/winter 2016 collection is brimming with subtle luxury. In a stiff fawn-coloured gabardine it looked at once modern and functionally old school. It also looked waterproof. This ought to be a no-brainer, given the trench-coat’s origins (the clue’s in the name) but many of today’s trench-coats, be they high street or high luxury, are barely shower-proof , as if actual rain were a quaint, anachronistic conceit.

Céline AW16


The Céline trench (which will be endlessly copied, partly because everything Céline does is copied, partly because the trench is emerging as a reborn star for next winter) is slim but not tight. It has been streamlined, stripped of epaulettes (a fussy touch that often looks bulky) and given contrast-colour belts, a key, easy-to-imitate styling point. Sometimes the Céline trench came in black, at other moments, its sleeves have been sliced off to make a dress that can be layered over skinny polo-necks for wearing inside, or thicker jumpers for outside. Other reinterpretations include cropped trench-jackets and shirts with contrasting collars, and sumptuous leather versions in petrol blue.

It has become a cliché to say that Philo understands what women want to wear, she’s also a designer who doesn’t confuse luxury with anachronistic extravagance, managing to inject classics with interesting, avant-garde touches (check out the gathered armholes on her cocoon capes).

Where many catwalk shows rely on heavily embellished evening wear for impact, Philo’s solution to “evening” wear includes semi-fitted tunic dresses, in cashmere or a beaten-up satin, designed to work over trousers or without, layered over shirts (the sleeveless versions) or worn on their own (the T-shirt shapes with short sleeves). Some featured looped up, asymmetric hems, others had toned-down jet beaded belts: luxurious, practical, and far more flattering options than her super-fine, unforgiving jersey tops and skirts.

While the deliberate understatement of some of these clothes (along with the way this winter collection was styled with open toed Grecian sandals) might strike some as contrived, for the armies of Céline fans, which includes millions who buy the high street versions, she has cracked the code of what to wear most of the time. Interestingly, that appears not to include jeans. Next winter, Céline’s trousers are wide, floppy and come in pale custard-yellow or cream.

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