Philipp Plein is a fashion designer who refuses to conform. He is derided by the fashion establishment and attacked by the fashionistas. Plein’s outrageous shows and over-the-top designs may not go down well with all the critics, but the rebel designer doesn’t care. He designs clothes and accessories for his clients, not for the fashion industry gurus.
Plein’s personal net worth of more than $180 million is proof that his uncompromising approach to fashion works. His fashion empire now includes the brands of Philipp Plein, Billionaire Couture, and Plein Sport. There are more than 120 mono-brand Philip Plein stores worldwide, and more than 500 retail clients stock Philp Plein creations.
So, who is the man behind this phenomenal success? What drives this self- proclaimed “money-machine”? Here’s everything you need to know about Philipp Plein and his uncompromising brands.
Philip Plein - From Lawyer, Through Dog Beds, to Fashion
The route that Philipp Plein took to become a fashion designer was as unconventional as his fashion shows are. He trained to be a lawyer, but he soon discovered that a career in law wasn’t for him. It was a bizarre set of circumstances that set Plein onto the path towards becoming a fashion designer. A path that began with a destroyed dog bed.
Plein lived at home with his parents while he was studying law. When his family’s dogs destroyed their own Burberry dog beds, Plein wanted to replace the beds with something modern. Finding that he couldn’t buy stylish, modern-looking dog beds he designed his own “steel sofa for dogs”.
Plein’s luxury dog sofas didn’t sell well in pet stores, so he began displaying his pieces in furniture stores instead. He then progressed to designing furniture for people. His first piece was a mock-crocodile leather-inset table. The furniture business grew to a €4m enterprise, but fate was about to take Plein in a new direction.
When Plein used some small leather handbags as swatches to promote his furniture, he found that people wanted to buy the bags. He then used some old military jackets encrusted with Swarovski crystal skulls as part of a furniture display at a trade show. When people asked if they could buy the jackets, Plein realised that there was a demand for his luxury, blinged-out clothes.
Runway Shows That Are Pure Spectacle
Plein’s reputation and notoriety grew. In 2010, he was ready for his first Milan show. The Camera Nazionale Della Moda, the Italian fashion industry’s governing body, though, weren’t prepared to recognise him. Unperturbed, Plein held his own fashion event at the end of the day. He knew that he had to put on a party that would be remembered if he was going to compete with the likes of Gucci and Prada, so that's exactly what he did. That first Plein event was a foretaste of what was to come.
Philipp Plein fashion shows are always a spectacle. The average budget for each show is in the region of €3m. Plein shows have featured everything from monster trucks to jet skis and a roller coaster. Plein shows also usually feature A-lister models and celebrities. Artists that have performed at his shows include Snoop Dogg, Rita Ora, and Iggy Azalea.
While his extravagant shows grab headlines and create a social media buzz, they have done little to improve his relationship with the fashion mainstream. After attending Plein’s 2019 "Dinner Show" event at The Grill in Midtown Manhattan, Alexandra Mondalek wrote that the Philipp Plein brand is a “tacky joke”. Plein responded with typical disregard for the fashion industry’s elite by criticising Alexandra Mondalek’s weight and questioning her integrity.
Uncompromising and Unpredictable
Philipp Plein is an unapologetic maximalist. His clothes are flashy, sparkly and uncompromising. His early collections have even been called trashy. Early pieces were bedecked with crystal and glittering Damien Hirst style skulls. Similar skulls still feature in Plein stores. The skull motif also appears on many of the current Philip Plein t-shirts, along with the “PP” logo that was first used on his furniture.
The Plein range now includes t-shirts, denim, footwear and accessories. Many pieces feature sparkling diamante embellishments in true Plein style. Some Plein t-shirts are as controversial as the designer himself. Some designs have a punk feel to them, while others make brash references to Plein’s own love of wealth.
Whatever the fashion establishment thinks of Plein, the German designer is never predictable. It is difficult to describe the Plein style because it is so unique and varied. That’s partly why the brand continues to grow in popularity. The elite of the fashion world still looks down their noses at the rabble-rousing designer. Meanwhile, Plein continues to return the compliment by sticking his middle finger right back up at them.
Space Cowboys and Billionaires
The 2019 “Dinner Show” in Manhattan marked the 20th anniversary of the Philipp Plein Group. The show consisted of three courses. The first course celebrated the American relaunch of the Billionaire brand. The main course showcased the latest Philipp Plein space-cowboy themed collection. And, for dessert, there was a spectacular after-party.
Kayne West was billed as the headliner entertainment for the night, but that didn’t work out. It turned out that Plein had been conned out of $900,000 by a former member of Kanye West’s team. West didn’t appear and the conman pocketed the money. Partygoers were treated to an appearance by Micky Rourke and a performance by Lil Pump instead.
Philipp Plein has toned down the bling and sparkle in recent collections. The style has become more elegant and, dare we say it, grown-up. Even so, there remains enough of a rebellious streak to retain his place as the bad boy of the fashion world.
Whether it’s a gold-foil batman logo T-shirt or a sparkling crystal skull, Plein knows what his clients like. And, if the inner-circle elite doesn’t like it, he really doesn’t care at all.