The German designer, whose label of blingtastic excess offers an unashamed more-is-more fashion proposition, has a loyal following amongst the nouveau riche, not unlike the tribes aligned with streetwear labels like Marcelo Burlon or even Supreme. Philipp Plein concedes to be the most hated man in fashion, according to an interview with British GQ.
I witnessed the dedication of his tribes firsthand, having attended Plein’s menswear show in Milan last season. Here his customers, or rather superfans, love to flaunt their allegiance at these spectacular presentations, inadvertently also attended by press and buyers (the latter with facial expressions revealing they wished to be elsewhere.)
Perched on benches for an arena-style show extravaganza I recall sitting next to a family dressed head-to-toe in conspicuous Plein-wear: all snakeskin trousers, diamanté encrusted trainers, skintight logo-tees – and that was just the young child. Propriety and modest wardrobe options do not exist at Plein, who’s celebrity fans include Snoop Dogg, Iggy Azalea and Paris Hilton.
But if OTT kitsch is a negative connotation to some, it’s an uber successful business model to others, with the company reportedly turning over 230 million pounds in 2017.
And Plein knows who to associate himself with to remain successful. Despite the gauche spectacles of his shows – one time it was a testosterone parade of sports cars and tractors, another he took his final bow standing atop a motorcycle – they are often produced by Etienne Russo, a premier show producer of industry appreciated sets, like the Chanel, Hermes, Celine and Dries van Noten catwalks. Former French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld styles Plein’s collections and acts as an advisor to the brand.
Butting heads with the fashion industry
In an interview with British GQ last week, where Philipp Plein received the GQ Brand of the Year accolade, Plein matter of factly states “the fashion industry was against us from the start.” Plein speaks of not fitting in and forging his own way: “I live the brand. I have to be the brand, if I didn’t do it I wouldn’t be successful.”
On Plein’s official instagram he is often photographed as “Living the Life of Plein,” i.e. boarding a private jet, or driving his 500,000 euro Lamborghini Aventador down the streets of Monaco.
Vogue critic Luke Leitch said of his show last season: Plein’s “personal blend of braggadocio and balls, plus a taste level so unabashedly trashy it’s almost genius, has seen him carve out a niche, it is hard not to admire.”
Genius or shrewd businessman aside, a quick look at the brand’s website sees a simple black denim jacket sell for 1,250 euros. A studded military parka with plenty of appliqués and Swarovski factor goes for 2,250 euros. This is a brand for customers with a lot of cash on their rhinestone-encrusted hands for whom Plein is the unabashed king to fulfill their ostentatious needs. All achieved without any of the admiration or support of the fashion industry at large. That in itself is genius.
Credit: Philipp Plein website
Don-Alvin Adegeest in Fashion United