In February this year, just ahead of the unveiling of the brand’s A/W17 collection at Paris Fashion Week, we let out a collective exclamation of delight upon discovering that Céline had at long last joined the rest of the world on Instagram. This was something of a surprise, albeit a pleasant one; the house had notoriously stated that it wouldn’t move into the realm either of social media or e-commerce (the latter has been confirmed as launching imminently later this month). As creative director Phoebe Philo stated during a Vogue panel discussion in 2014: “I very much like the idea that shoppers experience a Céline product in a Céline store.” The brand’s CEO, Mario Gobbetti, recently backed up this ethos, telling the WSJ, “I think that being quiet gives more value to what we do. We think it is important to touch the clothes – much of what is special is lost on e-commerce.”
It’s an understandable approach. Philo has transformed the way women dress today with her unrivalled weaving of modish minimalism and a diluted form of whimsy, and she is seemingly opposed to the world of online transcience, preferring quality over quantity and only making choice appearances in the spotlight. Suffice to say, this works – in spite of her physical absence, Philo’s influence is omnipresent; her taste-making can be found in the ubiquitous copycat designs on the high street, and in every second footprint left by the sole of a Stan Smith trainer.
Céline’s appearance on the social media platform is intriguing not only for the fact that the brand reneged on a vow to never darken its square-shaped doors, but also for the content itself. Besides the expected posts of runway looks and campaign imagery, tongue-in-cheek images pop up at random moments with little context. The inaugural post, for example, consisted of the foot of a Shire horse, captioned simply, “One step”. Subsequent shots include a kitsch red light switch, cryptically titled “Someday”; a film of a S/S17 mule making its way through two pieces of magenta tinsel; abstracted photographs of interiors accompanied with wry musings such as “Prompts reflection and random reverie”. Not forgetting the close-up shot of a plate of bangers and mash, the flash reflected in the bulging surface of a greasy sausage. Hashtag: “#comfortfood”.
So why do we love it so much? The answer lies in the way this luxury brand, representative of the ultimate in aesthetic acumen, is embracing a lo-fi and tongue-in-cheek approach to content production. It’s nothing new, if you scratch the surface: this transformation of the ugly and unexpected into something infinitely covetable is after all the same method that the likes of Miuccia Prada and Maison Margiela have toyed with for years. When this approach is applied to Instagram, however, and juxtaposed with the lacquered veneer of social media strategy rolled out by other luxury fashion houses, it becomes something new entirely. Above all, it makes us laugh with its banality, providing a moment of relief much-needed amidst all of fashion’s earnestness. We predict we’ll be seeing copycats of Céline’s digital presence soon enough – for whatever Philo touches, be it mashed potato or otherwise, turns to gold.