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AUTHENTICITY

December 6, 2018

By Jody Hume

HOW TO SPOT REAL PHOEBE PHILO-ERA CÉLINE

Few designer departures hit the fashion world like Phoebe Philo’s did. It’s de rigueur these days for fashion houses and creative directors to play musical chairs, but when Philo announced she was leaving Céline after nearly ten years, it left fans gutted. Her tenure there was about more than just clothes. To her legions of followers, many of whom found in her a female designer who made clothes with women’s modern lives in mind, it was more like an ethos. Who else can we look to in this age that would say something like “The chicest thing is when you don’t exist on Google.”?
Indeed, Philo’s found a way to slip off the fashion map. Unlike other designers who left one major house for another, she is simply taking a break — one Philophiles hope won’t be permanent. You can find a reverent archive of the Phoebe years at @oldceline, the Instagram account fans have flocked to in their collective grief. But soon, you won’t be able to find her actual easy, artful, powerful, utterly cool, minimalist pieces in stores or anywhere — except the resale market, that is. And when you go looking for that SS 2013 pvc boot from the archives, you’ll want to be able to tell what’s real from what’s not. To help, we enlisted our Chief Authenticator, Graham Wetzbarger, to guide us through the hallmarks of authentic Philo-era bags, sunglasses, shoes and ready-to-wear.

Phoebe Philo Céline Handbags

Phoebe Philo Céline BagsCéline Medium Luggage Phantom Tote | Céline 2018 Small Big Bag | Céline Medium Classic Box Bag

The number one thing to look for in an authentic Philo-era bag is the date code. Where you’ll find it can vary from style to style, but should be consistent among the same style. For example, “On a Trapeze, it will be in the pocket on the back side,” explains Wetzbarger. “For the Luggage Tote it will be in the interior pocket. For the Trio it will be on the interior leather edge of one of the pouches, back by the zipper base.”  Often on inauthentic bags the date code tag will be too large in an attempt  to make it obvious. Other red flags to look for are date code tags that are in the wrong place or missing altogether.

Phoebe Philo Céline Bags

“Céline date code formats follow the same format as Louis Vuitton brands,” explains Wetzbarger. “They are made up of an alphanumeric code where the first letter denotes the season, the second two denote the workshop where it was made, and the following four numbers denote when it was made. Of those last four numbers, the first and third number equal the month, and the second and the fourth number are the year.” In the example above, the 0164 indicates the bag was made in June of 2014. A quick tip: “If the second number is a 1, that means it’s 2010 or newer, which means it’s Phoebe Philo.”
Brand stamps on handbags should say “CÉLINE” and you’ll know it’s Phoebe Philo because of the accent aigu (the one that goes up to the right), something Hedi Slimane has omitted in the house’s updated logo. Some Philo designs may be missing the accent if they were produced after this change on September 4, 2018. The brand stamp should be done in foil that matches the color of the hardware, or a blind stamp (i.e. debossed with no foil).

Phoebe Philo Céline Shoes

Phoebe Philo Céline ShoesCéline Patent Leather Pumps | Céline Slingback Pumps | Céline Oxford Pumps

Inspecting Céline shoes is all about the brand stamp and materials. “Céline shoes will be foil-stamped or debossed on the heel of the insole ‘CÉLINE PARIS,’” notes Wetzbarger. Make sure that the font is correct (sans serif), consistent (even weight distribution) and correctly placed (centered),  and that the size is accurate; as with bags, counterfeits often have outsized logos to make them seem more obvious.

Phoebe Philo Céline Shoes

Another distinguishing feature are the outsoles. “Céline primarily uses a signature honey-brown color that’s naturally dyed for the outsoles of their shoes. There may be some shoes that don’t have this color outsole, but the majority will. You should also see a slightly italicized ‘Made In Italy’ stamp, and a size stamp. Both should be debossed, no foil. Along with many top designers — Chanel, Hermès, Christian Louboutin — Céline’s espadrilles are made in Spain, so any espadrille style should say ‘Made In Spain.’”

Phoebe Philo Céline Sunglasses

Phoebe Philo Céline SunglassesCéline Petra Cat-Eye Sunglasses | Céline Baby Marta Sunglasses

Philo’s coveted sunglasses for Céline took a structural hardware element — three nail heads that read as dots — and made it into an instantly recognizable design signature that has inspired other ‘non-logo logos.’ “The nail heads are functional,” Wetzbarger emphasizes. “They should go all the way through the heavy acetate the frames are made of. Make sure they are not just decals on the front of the frames.”

Phoebe Philo Céline Sunglasses

You’ll also want to look at the hinges. “A cheap imitation pair of sunglasses might only have a three-piece hinge, where an authentic pair of Céline sunglasses might have a seven-piece hinge. The metal support should go all the way down into the arm of the sunglasses. ‘CÉLINE MADE IN ITALY’ should be marked on the interior of the right arm, and the style numbers and dimensions should be marked on the interior of the left arm.”

Phoebe Philo Céline Clothing

Phoebe Philo Céline ClothingCéline Cutout Top | Céline Mini Dress

If you’re examining a dress, top or other clothing piece, pay attention to the tags. “The neck tag should say CÉLINE, with the accent aigu, and PARIS on the fabric tag. Most of Céline’s garments are made in Italy, however some knitwear is made in China.”

Phoebe Philo Céline ClothingCéline Top

And how can you tell if it’s Phoebe, as opposed to a predecessor at Céline like Michael Kors? “The labels before Phoebe Philo did not have the accent,” Wetzbarger explains, “and will often have the vintage-inspired double C (which Hedi Slimane is now bringing back). The Phoebe-era tag is long, thin and rectangular, whereas the Kors-era tags are square.The font is slightly thinner on the Michael Kors-era labels, and the ‘CELINE’ is bolder. Also, normally for Philo-era garments the style ID and care tag is at the side seam, whereas for Kors-era tags, these are often found at the neck; because the brand tag was larger, you could hide the care tag behind it.”
Snap up a piece from the Philo archives with our editors’ Céline picks.
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