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Fashion

Is This Lawyer The Ultimate #OldCeline Fan?

In the fickle world of fashion, what keeps one repeatedly going back to a particular label through the years or even decades? For Hong Kong-based French lawyer Frederique Gilain, it all boils down to good old loyalty and a singular, dogged love for her chosen designer Phoebe Philo – trends be damned. Here, we get her to turn the cameras on herself and (a portion of) her carefully amassed treasure trove.
What attracts you to Philo-era Celine?
“What not to love about Phoebe Philo’s clothes? I could write a novel about it but to keep things short I would say that it feels like Phoebe knew what I wanted to wear (even before me) and her pieces in my view say something about the woman wearing them.   What I communicate when I wear her clothes is aligned with who I am. Her proposal was very new and modern; you wear Celine by Phoebe for yourself, not for anyone else, from morning to late. Each collection was an excitement and a surprise. Each of them being different from the other but somewhat connected in a way that they always ended up mixing and matching, new pieces enhancing and reviving older ones, telling the story of this Celine woman: she is not sexy but she is fearless and desirable, her personality shines through, she is not fashionable but she is stylish and feminine in her own and unique way.   That said, I get a lot of comments along the lines of ‘This is a pretty dress, but why are you wearing these ugly shoes!’. The clothes are extremely well-made with distinct attention to details – they fit amazingly well, the fabrics and leathers are beautiful and there is no fuss about them, I never feel uncomfortable like I am wearing a costume. They are strong and soft at once, timeless but never boring or expected.   Celine has been qualified as ‘minimalist’ – perhaps those clean lines are what attracted me in the first place, but if you look well enough you will see that things are not quite so minimalist. Phoebe Philo actually took us on a journey where we grew with her prints, her colour palette and her use of fur and technical fabrics. All these revolutionised fashion, and so have the proportions and designs of her clothes and shoes.   The Celine universe and vibes are very special – the campaigns (mostly shot by Juergen Teller) were part of that universe. There is a strong sense of humour and fun in her aesthetic, along the lines of a ‘truth or dare’ game, as in a I-don’t-have-to-take-myself-too-seriously-because-I-can-kind-of-way. I don’t think there is anything quite like that in fashion today to be honest and I am a bit bored these days, although I can’t complain as I still ‘shop’ Celine in my own closing.” Would it be accurate to say you’re an #OldCeline collector?
“I never thought about it in that way actually, but I guess I am. I am a collector (she started from Sep 2010) who enjoys wearing and carrying the pieces I collect. They are not for the pleasure of the eyes only – actually they are part of who I am, they are part of the language I speak and they say a lot about me and they do give me joy and empowerment.   I wouldn’t buy a piece that I don’t genuinely want to own, wear or carry. For me clothes only come to life when they are worn. My collection is edited and has a function. The pieces I buy need to work for me and find a place in my style and universe. This is certainly not a collection that is designed to sit in a safe.” How many Celine designs do you own in your wardrobe?
“Many, many, many, many. But when you love something, you don’t count, do you? I don’t know what is the exact answer but I would say somewhere around 300 ready-to-wear pieces – or perhaps more with the accessories, bags, and the shoes.”   What's your first Celine purchase?
“The first pieces I bought was a pair of grey pants and a white shirt from the Fall/Winter 2010 collection, I bought them at Joseph in London where I was living at the time. I was relocating to Hong Kong for work and wanted a few ‘corporate with a twist’ pieces to start my new job in style.   I looked at those pants and realised that the fabric was amazing and the tailoring was impeccable – they were as nice on the inside as they were on the outside and when I tried them on, they fit me like a pair of gloves and had these perfectly-positioned and well-sized pockets. They were ‘the’ pants. It’s the same for the shirt – the quality of the cotton was fantastic, the cut was perfect, and I remember thinking that, finally, someone knew how to cut woman’s shirt sleeves!” What's your first Celine purchase?
“The first pieces I bought was a pair of grey pants and a white shirt from the Fall/Winter 2010 collection, I bought them at Joseph in London where I was living at the time. I was relocating to Hong Kong for work and wanted a few ‘corporate with a twist’ pieces to start my new job in style.   I looked at those pants and realised that the fabric was amazing and the tailoring was impeccable – they were as nice on the inside as they were on the outside and when I tried them on, they fit me like a pair of gloves and had these perfectly-positioned and well-sized pockets. They were ‘the’ pants. It’s the same for the shirt – the quality of the cotton was fantastic, the cut was perfect, and I remember thinking that, finally, someone knew how to cut woman’s shirt sleeves!” What are some of the most unique and treasured Celine pieces in your wardrobe?
“I have a lot of treasures but as I said I am not collecting for the sake of collecting. Those pieces – the clothes, the bags, the shoes, the accessories –are all connected to me in a way, if you see what I mean. I have a leather scarf top from Spring/Summer 2018 which I think is very special – the craftsmanship on that piece is unique, it looks and feels as if it was handmade and when I wear it, I feel like I can fly.   The trenchcoat with the map print from Fall/Winter 2017 is another favorite of mine as is the blanket coat from Fall/Winter 2018. The fringed dress from Fall/Winter 2015 is also special to me, it is not the most iconic piece I own but this dress is me: the top part is a plain navy cashmere knit and the bottom is made of black fringes. It is a perfect combination of simplicity and eccentricity, of day and night, of serious and fun, it has no fussiness to it and I feel happy every single time I wear it.   I could go on and on – I have so many pieces which are not necessarily unique or rare but which I see in a certain way that makes them precious and treasurable.” What are some of the most unique and treasured Celine pieces in your wardrobe?
“I have a lot of treasures but as I said I am not collecting for the sake of collecting. Those pieces – the clothes, the bags, the shoes, the accessories –are all connected to me in a way, if you see what I mean. I have a leather scarf top from Spring/Summer 2018 which I think is very special – the craftsmanship on that piece is unique, it looks and feels as if it was handmade and when I wear it, I feel like I can fly.   The trenchcoat with the map print from Fall/Winter 2017 is another favorite of mine as is the blanket coat from Fall/Winter 2018. The fringed dress from Fall/Winter 2015 is also special to me, it is not the most iconic piece I own but this dress is me: the top part is a plain navy cashmere knit and the bottom is made of black fringes. It is a perfect combination of simplicity and eccentricity, of day and night, of serious and fun, it has no fussiness to it and I feel happy every single time I wear it.   I could go on and on – I have so many pieces which are not necessarily unique or rare but which I see in a certain way that makes them precious and treasurable.” What was the most recent piece from Philo's Celine that you bought?
“The green ‘Love Life’ pull-on sneakers from Spring/Summer 2014. They had been on my ‘want’ list for a while but I just could not find them in my size in good conditions.” How do you store and maintain your pieces?
“I store my pieces at home and also in a storage facility (which is climate controlled). I live in Hong Kong where the humidity level is pretty high nine months out of 12 so I am very careful, especially with my leather pieces.   I have dehumidifiers in the rooms and in my closets. I get everything out regularly and make sure they are ‘safe’. I am also using a storage service which also provides a digital version of my wardrobe that is super easy to manage (PAKT), I can get pieces delivered when I need/want them or sent to the warehouse when I am not using them.” Do you have any tips for those who are new to collecting old Celine pieces?
“(Jokingly) It is an insider job, I can’t tell you my secret! First of all, it is helpful to know the collections well and to be able to reference the pieces you are interested in. It is good to have a ‘want’ and a ‘wish’ list and an idea of how much you are prepared to spend on a given piece.   I buy from Vestiaire Collective, from other online platforms, from brick and mortar second-hand shops (such as Hula in Hong Kong) and with professional sellers either via Instagram (her account @lafredtouch is a visual shrine to “old Celine” that shows how Philo’s designs are as functional as they are stylish) or directly. I don’t buy from Ebay – that is not my playground though I know that a lot of people do but I don’t like it. Similarly, there are some China-based sellers and platforms which have a lot of Celine items – but again, I am not using them.” Do you have any tips for those who are new to collecting old Celine pieces?
“(Jokingly) It is an insider job, I can’t tell you my secret! First of all, it is helpful to know the collections well and to be able to reference the pieces you are interested in. It is good to have a ‘want’ and a ‘wish’ list and an idea of how much you are prepared to spend on a given piece.   I buy from Vestiaire Collective, from other online platforms, from brick and mortar second-hand shops (such as Hula in Hong Kong) and with professional sellers either via Instagram (her account @lafredtouch is a visual shrine to “old Celine” that shows how Philo’s designs are as functional as they are stylish) or directly. I don’t buy from Ebay – that is not my playground though I know that a lot of people do but I don’t like it. Similarly, there are some China-based sellers and platforms which have a lot of Celine items – but again, I am not using them.” What are you still searching for?
“It’s nothing that extreme but I once transferred a nice sum of money to a person I did not know to buy a bag I had not seen before (I just had to confirm its serial number with a Celine staff). Everything went smoothly in the end and I got my dream bag – a scarf bag in leather patchwork from Spring/Summer 2018.” What's one extreme thing you've done in the name of collecting?
“The foulard print shirt from the Spring/Summer 2011 collection which is also known as the Kanye West or Travis Scott shirt. I tried it on one time and almost bought it but thought it was a bit loud for the minimalist fashion being I was at the time, so I passed and regretted it. When I went back to the store to finally get it, it was sold out. I stumbled upon it a few times but could never get it and now the second-hand price for this item is simply and utterly ridiculous.   There is also a pleated skirt from Spring/Summer 2014 with rust color ‘handpainted’ brush strokes and a green elasticated waistband that I have been hunting for a while now but without any success so far.”   Your thoughts on the new Celine – and do you buy any of the designs?
“Well, I would say that Celine now is a very different brand from Celine (with the accent). The Celine proposals from Phoebe and from Hedi are, in my view, diametrically opposed. I have bought a few pieces of the new collections but, for me and it is very personal. The magic touch is lost, there is nothing special or unique about this brand in its current iteration.”