Paris commute proves too much for Philo

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Phoebe Philo, the designer behind the phenomenal regeneration of the Chloe label, has resigned from the helm of the French fashion house, citing personal reasons, in particular, the need "to spend time with my new baby in the coming months".

Speculation has been rife recently that, despite Chloe being one of the great success stories of the new millennium, Philo, 32, who gave birth to a daughter last year, was intending to step down. The demands of running one of the fastest-growing European brands were at odds with her need to focus on her family. Although her work was based in London, Philo spent eight days a month in Paris.

Inevitably, rumours of a successor are already in full flow with Frenchman Roland Mouret, who recently split with his backer, widely tipped as the frontrunner. But industry sources say no contact has been made between Ralph Toledano, the Chloe chairman and chief executive, and Mouret, best known as creator of the wasp-waisted "galaxy" dress. The house is said to be considering options which include everything from a team effort to internal promotion. Philo, who was born in Paris in 1973, was invited to work for Chloe by Stella McCartney, her friend and fellow designer, less than a year after her graduation from Central Saint Martins school of art in 1996.

McCartney's appointment as creative director of the well-known brand at that time was a controversial one. Her detractors suggested that at least part of the reason for her employment by Chloe was the cachet of her famous father. From the start, Philo, McCartney's number two, was widely considered the more talented designer. McCartney's background may have brought the house the much-needed publicity to put it back in the fashion spotlight, critics said, but it was Philo who created the eclectic, vintage-inspired London Girl look that gave rise to the sales figures that backed up any hype.

It came as no great surprise, then, that when McCartney resigned and set up her own label as a joint venture with the Gucci Group in 2001, Philo, almost unknown outside the industry but already a force to be reckoned with, was named as her successor. Since then, she has not only come up with the sort of ultra-feminine frocks everyone from Kylie Minogue to Kirsten Dunst would kill for but has produced some of the most coveted accessories to go with them including, most recently, the Paddington, the "it" bag to be seen carrying. In November last year, Johann Rupert, the Chloe chairman, reported first-half profits for 2005 as more than robust. "The business has outperformed its peers, more than doubling sales in the six months under review," he said. The company has just opened a second Paris store and last year Chloe boutiques sprang up from Kuwait to Beijing and Shanghai. Chloe, today part of the Swiss-based Richemont Group, celebrated its 50th anniversary under Philo in 2002.

Since its inception, it has stayed true to its goal to produce romantic, feminine fashion that may not break many boundaries but is beautifully crafted and lovely to wear. French designer Martine Sitbon and, most famously, German Karl Lagerfeld both worked for the house in the past but under McCartney first and then Philo, Chloe was given a more youthful, street-wise edge that attracted a new generation of customers and caused it to become one of the most copied brands on the high street.

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