Phoebe Philo, the 37-year-old creative director of Céline, is surprisingly frail for someone who a year ago accomplished the Herculean feat of turning the river of trend and washing fashion’s Augean stables clean of decorative bling. A 2010 nominee as British Designer of the Year, she was also behind one of the most heralded collections at last week’s women’s wear shows in Paris.
Medium height, with wispy brown hair and prominent cheekbones, her thin frame swamped by a black leather jacket and a long, man’s shirt over slouchy black trousers, she can seem almost fragile. On the other hand, she has chosen St John, a restaurant in Clerkenwell, London, known for its “nose to tail” menu of offal and other meaty innards, so clearly she has a carnivorous, protein-packing side.
“Well, it’s run by a friend,” she says when she arrives in the stripped-down white space and sits at the paper-covered table. “And it has a straightforwardness that I quite like. It’s very to-the-point.”
To wit: there are “peas in the pod” on the menu. Literally. Undressed, unshelled, peas in the pod, like the kind you get in the market. Or, as Philo says, like the kind that might have “come right from the garden”. She orders some of those with fresh lemonade – the kind they make in America, with just lemon juice, water, and sugar – plus a green salad, some cured mackerel and a roast beef sandwich, because she “rather fancies some white bread”. I opt for lemonade, some cauliflower and lentils, a green salad and a cheese plate. Philo looks at me appraisingly.