When editor Penny Martin secured Phoebe Philo as the cover star for The Gentlewoman’s first issue, it represented a major coup. Not only because Philo rarely gives press interviews (and the magazine was new), but because the British designer had recently shown her debut collection for Céline, Spring Summer 10. It was the start of Philo’s revolution of modern, real-world womenswear at the Paris house – a legend in the making (and an era that has been mourned since Hedi Slimane took the reins, transforming the house into a home for skinny, overwhelmingly white indie kids, as is his signature).
So how did Penny pull it off? If you read The Gentlewoman, you will recognise that its refined but realistic fashion mantra was a perfect pairing for Philo’s design perspective; but in a new interview with The Cut, the editor suggests an additional reason for the designer’s goodwill. This wasn’t their first interview, Martin explains. She had previously profiled Philo in 2005, when she was still at the helm of Chloé, another French fashion house. Though Philo’s tenure there was both critically acclaimed and commercially successful, Martin reveals that their interview did not paint a happy picture.
"It was very clear to me during the interview that she was about to leave," Martin says in the Cut article. "She was depressed as hell." With the fashion industry being quite a small world really, Martin knew Philo’s agent, and called her to check on the intent of this revelation. She asked the agent, "Is [Philo] trying to tell me this as a scoop, or does she not know what she’s told me?" explaining that it was "very obvious she’s not happy" and that Philo had been "very, very forthcoming – you know, too forthcoming." After the agent checked with Philo, she called Martin back and asked her to please keep that particular insight secret. Which she did, until now of course.
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What a fantastic day to celebrate the pioneering #PennyMartin. Thank you for taking on the publishing realm with such brilliance, and for #theGentlewoman, which constantly challenges and inspires us. Most importantly, though, Happy Birthday! Photograph by #AngeloPennetta for #ApartamentoMagazine's issue 19.
Years after the Chloé interview, Philo was able to pay Martin back for keeping her secret: by adding some serious fashion-star quality to The Gentlewoman’s launch issue: "Phoebe did me a very big [favour] in doing that first interview," Martin tells The Cut. Describing it as "a really charming gift", the editor explains that this cover feature provided "the imprimatur of the woman that would be very associated with our early aesthetic – or rather, we would be associated with hers." A powerful seal of approval, and the perfect favour returned, this small tale of respect between two women is proof that truly, in fashion, what goes around comes around – on the catwalk and behind the scenes.