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Fashion History: Céline

Céline were recently in the news for selling a $590 plastic bag at their pop-up shop in Seattle’s Nordstrom. The bag was designed by the now-retired creative director, Phoebe Philo. Whilst the price tag caused quite the stir and made headlines, Philo’s second-to-last design may have just been the penultimate statement piece for her departure as creative director of Céline.

Founded originally in 1945 by Céline Vipiana, the brand originally began as a made-to-measure luxury children’s shoe business. Vipiana began the business with her husband Richard, and opened their first boutique in the Rue de Malte in Paris. Soon, they added luxury women’s shoes to their collection and in the 1960s, they switched their focus more towards ready-to-wear fashion for women, with a more sportswear approach. The fashion line incorporated a mixture of loafers, bags, gloves and clothes, which Vipiana designed from 1945 to 1997.

Vipiana believed that women did not need a bizarre and out-there wardrobe, but rather something more understated and functional, thus making the brand an advertisement for French Couture Sportswear. According to Vipiana, she believed the typical Céline customer is “dynamic, she works, she travels a lot and doesn’t rely on extravagant and overly eccentric clothing to convey her personality to others.” This resulted in a high-end collection of pieces that were elegant and effortlessly chic.

When the Vipianas eventually retired, they sold two-thirds of the brand in 1987 to Bernard Arnault, a French business magnate. Arnault ended up leading 89 worldwide stores and nine years later, Céline became part of the LVMH group, a world leader in high-end luxury. 

TERRACOTTA SMOOTH & ELEPHANT CALFSKIN LEATHER MICRO LUGGAGE TOTE
Céline Terracotta Smooth & Elephant Calfskin Leather Micro Luggage Tote
CELINE TERRACOTA LUGGAGE TOTE

In 1997, Michael Kors was named the creative director of the brand, focusing more on the accessories line of Céline, especially the purse selection. The brand’s turnover doubled with the success of the Boogie and Poulbot purses. Kors eventually resigned as creative director to work on his own eponymous label but it was no doubt his work left a mark on the brand.

Robert Menichetti took over ready-to-wear fashion in 2005 and soon after came Ivana Omazic in 2006. Omazic intended to revive the brand’s original vision by exploring old archives to draw up inspiration.However, it wasn’t until the arrival of British fashion designer, Phoebe Philo, that Céline took a real turn towards their original roots, bringing the brand back into the spotlight. When Philo was made creative director in 2008, she put her own unique twist on Céline Vipiana’s original vision of minimalist chic.

CELINE MINT CALFSKIN LEATHER LUGGAGE TOTE
Céline Mint Grained Calfskin Leather Micro Luggage Tote
CELINE MINT CALFSKIN LUGGAGE TOTE

In an interview with Penny Martin in The Gentlewoman Spring/Summer 2010, Philo notes, “I surround myself with images for their emotional qualities. I get an energy from their tenderness, strength, and glamour that I’m very responsive to.” Much like Vipiana, both designers feel creating something that women want is more important; something tasteful, elegant and luxurious, yet still pretty utilitarian.

Whilst Michael Kors made Céline into an “accessory machine”, Philo’s handbag designs really shot Céline bags into the limelight with its three bag pillars, the ‘Luggage’, ‘Cabas’ and ‘Classic’. Each pillar is known for its unique identifiable structure and design. Céline handbags are also considered a massive investment and gather value over the years.

We recommend a piece such as the Large Trapeze Bag in navy drummed calfskin leather & suede (circa 2012, in a very good pre-owned condition) for the modern working woman, a great piece for the day to day and all your office essentials. The simplicity in colour with the flair of the design makes it a complementary and essential accessory for your daily activities.

CELINE EVERGREEN PYTHON LEATHER LUGGAGE TOTE
Céline Medium Phantom Luggage Tote in evergreen python leather

For a pop of colour whilst travelling, we would recommend the Micro Luggage Totes in terracotta smooth & elephant calfskin leather and in mint grained calfskin leather (both circa 2015 in exceptional and very good pre-owned conditions). Whilst the former is in a beautiful tan and peach colour combination, the latter in a vibrant eye-catching true mint green. 

A fantastic example of Céline’s sophisticated yet effortless design is their Medium Case Flap Bag in brown and black calfskin leather (circa 2012). This gorgeous piece is classic and understated, a great bag for an evening out with drinks and friends. 

PRE-LOVED CELINE BROWN & BLACK CALFSKIN LEATHER BI-COLOUR MEDIUM CASE FLAP BAG SITTING ON A BEIGE BACKDROP WITH SHADOWS
Céline Brown & Black Calfskin Leather Bi-Colour Medium Case Flap bag.

For a taste of the lavish, we also have a stunning Medium Phantom Luggage Tote in evergreen python leather with a black leather interior and an open top closure. Whilst the body is a deep green, it is accented by a brighter green stitching to bring the whole colour scheme together. 

Whilst understandably not every person will be running out to grab themselves the new Céline supermarket tote, it is still, to this day, demonstrating a tongue-in-cheek for something more simple and utilitarian. The creative team for Céline has paved the way for some exciting new designs for the brand, and we are excited to see what new direction their new art director, Hedi Slimane, will take the French fashion house in.

Discover our full collection of pre-loved Céline handbags online at Xupes now.