Overhead was a tent in bold primary colours and at our feet drifts of sand as the setting for the Céline show. The bright background suggested vacation and escape. Yet not the clothes: soft satin and black lace dresses like glamorous nightwear; coats with an easy hand-in-pockets stance, a rib-knit waist inserted and an overall city feeling.
None of the fine clothes explained the deep feeling that Céline incites, where designer Phoebe Philo seems to be stretching her skills to the limit in the service of women. She knows we pine for simple linen dresses, shadowing a female body shape, and, this season, with those fashionably full sleeves.
Once backstage, Philo's long, discursive explanation made sense of the show and its setting.
First she said that she had worked with the artist Fos, who had also directed the live music. The idea was to create a space that corresponded to how women behave in different areas.
"I'm very interested in understanding how different clothes make us feel, and I started to think about a slightly strange wardrobe," Philo said. "Those clothes for me are as if you were to go on a year-long voyage, you could just pack it all and use it in all the different places you might visit. The collection is a bit like the tent, which can be folded and packed up."
Phoebe then added another emotional element.
"The context is taking her out of urban life and literally putting her feet in the sand," she said about the Céline woman. "I found it so charming and touching to remove her from that environment. I long more and more to be in nature — I get a lot of satisfaction imagining those clothes there."
The long explanation helped to define the visceral reaction to what Céline offers: clothes that do not have an external Wow! factor, although Phoebe has done that in the past with an African-inspired collection. Or when she created furry sandals that became objects of desire and were copied across continents. At this show the fur was white, teddy-bear cuddly and offered as a coat.
Although there were red ballerina flats to accompany the lingerie looks, gold jewellery in earring hoops or wrist squares and — of course — Céline's famous bags, the power was in the choice, especially the outerwear. Spring is often forgotten in summer collections, but here were smart coats decorated with wavy lines or curvy pantsuits with gilded trimmings. Navy jackets or a checked coat with plaid pants: these clothes were indeed for all seasons and reasons.
How and why has fashion today moved so far from most women and their crazy-busy lives? Céline offers a convincing — and appealing, answer.