The spring/summer 2016 ready-to-wear show by British designer Phoebe Philo for Céline at Paris Fashion Week yesterday / EPA

Paris spring/summer 2016: Phoebe Philo's Céline goes for instinct, while Sarah Burton brings her McQueen woman off her platform pedestal

Backstage, at Céline’s spring/summer 2016 show, in a throng of journalists, the drawn, slender face of designer Phoebe Philo. She’s wearing a shirt, a sweater tied around her waist, and she’s struggling to explain the garments she’s just shown. Thinking about what it’s like to wear clothes, she said, in response to questions about inspiration, about how we feel in them and where we go.

I wanted to call it bull****. 

I wouldn’t, on Philo, in part because it wasn’t. I imagine she was just trying to articulate the inarticulate, hence the gumpf. Designers don’t reel off inspirations, cite movies or books or muses any more. They just go with their gut, and hope it all works out.

That was the feeling you got from Philo’s great Céline show, anyway. There wasn’t a pontificating manifesto to tug apart swaggering coats, broad bands of ribbing scissoring their tops from their bottoms, curved-sleeve dresses and empire-waist tops, or sloppy, wide-checked trousers folded about the hip in a peat-bog palette of browns. 

Philo used to give out mood-books of her inspirational imagery. Even those feel outdated. Designers are producing more and more clothes than ever before: Philo, for instance, shows us four collections a year, and is tweaking a multitude of commercial ranges and a slick range of bags and shoes. She doesn’t have time to think too much about all this stuff.

It’s a way of designing that’s not uncaring, nor unconsidered, but instinctive. You want a dress? Here’s a few. Some shoes? Got them. Here’s a coat. Put it on. Back in the Eighties, Donna Karan used to talk about her customers having more important things to think about than their clothes – she designed a wardrobe called Seven Easy Pieces based around the notion. 

This collection felt like Céline’s easy pieces – or, rather, Philo’s. That was, at least, my gut response.

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