Whatever you personally think of Céline designer Phoebe Philo's decidedly non-minimalist new direction, the buyers love it. WWD asked thirty retailers to respond to the Paris Fashion Week show season, and a full seventeen of them called out Céline as one of their favorite Spring 2014 collections.
But then, the critics loved it too. Or so they said: the flow of money from luxury brands to industry publications (the French design house is owned by conglomerate LVMH) can make it challenging for individual writers to express negative opinions*. For retailers, on the other hand, the dynamic is reversed. By reputation, buyers tend to favor the commercial over the conceptual — a specific point of view which is often cast as a limitation. But regardless, buyers control what's available for purchase, making their impact on what most of us actually wear tremendous and immediate. On another note, critics often use ephemeral, vague-seeming descriptive language to talk about fashion. Buyers vote for their favorite collections in a more concrete way, by pulling designs to stock in their stores.
So if you belong to the tribe of recovering (and/or wannabe) Philophiles who thought the label's most recent designs were either a nightmare or else a very very bad dream, you might be surprised by how well it's been received. Some of the figures who counted Céline as one of their favorite collections of the season: Linda Fargo of Bergdorf Goodman, Sarah Easley for Kirna Zabête, Ken Downing of Neiman Marcus, Laure Heriard Dubreuil from The Webster in Miami. Again, these buyers don't just think the collection will sell, they went on record to say they loved it.
*Hedi Slimane's tenure at Saint Laurent has been an exception to this principle. Cathy Horyn of The New York Times was one of the first to register her dislike of Slimane's attitude and work for the prestige house; other outlets almost immediately followed suit, although in some cases, the tide of popular (err, critical) opinion, is swinging back the other way again.