Everything You Need to Know About the Guy Stealing Fashion Week Headlines
Phillip Plein on a rotating bull

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Everything you need to know about the guy who keeps capturing fashion week headlines.

Plein is not considered a fashion world darling—in fact, nearly every profile of the designer addresses the fashion media’s refusal to take his clothing seriously. And yet the man keeps making news that reverberates far beyond the industry.

Who is Philipp Plein? Where did he come from? Where is he going? Should our parents be worried?! This is what you need to know.

What is this man’s origin’s myth?

You couldn’t make up Plein’s backstory if you tried: after working as a lawyer in his native Germany, his first foray into the garment industry was through the lucrative dog bed industry. “People love their pets. They will love them even in a crisis,” he told the Financial Times in 2016. After his family’s dogs destroyed a set of plushy Burberry dog beds, he struggled to find a bed that would vibe with their home’s modernist interior, so in 1998 he designed “a steel sofa for dogs.” (You can see the Mies van der Rohe-inspired perch, for the dog who loves timeless elegance, here.) From there, he moved into furniture for humans, then a few handbags, and then he blinged out a line of military jackets with Swarovski crystals in 2004, which was practically a year brought to you by Swarovski crystals. In 2010, he staged his first fashion show in Milan, and since 2017 has been showing on and off in the United States.

What do his clothes look like?

Plein’s clothing sits somewhere on the spectrum between Ed Hardy and Balmain: graphic-driven tees, sweats, and mid-aughts rock ‘n roll-y separates given a manic luxury treatment. Rare is the garment left un-bedazzled. No sequin is spared.

His runway shows are spectacles.

Even by the standards of Fashion-as-Entertainment-Behemoth, Plein puts on shows. The FT reported that these gala-party-runway events generally cost somewhere around three million pounds (about $3.88 million) to produce, and they almost always feature A-list performers and an open bar. Most notably, they also include dramatics worthy of a rap video conceived on ketamine: jet skis, robots holding hands with models, rollercoasters, Courtney Love, monster trucks crushing cars, and, of course, Mickey Rourke.

Uh, where does he get all this money?

Plein says he has no investors and that his company is debt-free. It is owned outright by Plein and Plein alone. Apparently, he continued to reinvest the money from his runaway success dog bed business until he could quit his career as a lawyer, and made savvy investments in businesses like—ta da!—a stainless steel company, the FT reported.

He’s also made some smart hires, adding to his team execs from Louis Vuitton, Prada, Valentino, and Dolce & Gabbana, per WSJ. And while his goods may not be as ubiquitous as, say, Supreme’s, the world abounds with Plein stans: he told Bloomberg his 2017 sales hovered around $300 million, which is pretty good for a midsize luxury brand; Acne Studios reportedly does about 200 million euro, or about $3.38 million, in sales per year.

Why is he such a hater?

Like his fellow Pater Opulence Steffano Gabbana, Plein is eager to defend his work, and is dismissive of industry criticism: “I’m not designing for the fashion industry. I’m designing for my clients,” he told the Wall Street Journal in 2014. (In a Perfectly Pleinian twist, he added, “I had this in my boarding school,” he said. “I changed schools six times because my parents were moving. I’m used to this.”)

Still: rappers love him.

At a Plein show I attended in September 2017, where I sat tantalizingly close to Tiffany Trump, Future and Teyana Taylor were the marquee performers. Future made multiple references to Plein as one of the few fashion designers who embraced rappers and gave them the attention they were due for driving sales and shaping brands’ public images.

Yes, thank you for asking: he did teach Carine Roitfeld the word “Lit”

In a 2017 story for the New York Times, former French Vogue editor and industry gatekeeper
Roitfeld, who was working with Plein to style his stateside debut, got in a disagreement over whether a garment was a sweater or a dress. (This is what the fashion cognoscenti might call “a classic situation.”) As a model walked across the room to help determine whether it was long enough to be worn alone, Plein said, “That’s lit,” to which Roitfeld said: “I learned one word today.”

And yes, he is the man who was scammed by Kanye West

So what was Monday’s show actually like?

I heartily RSVP’d to Plein’s bash, jumping at the opportunity to see his ersatz opulence on full blast. Regrettably, I was also relegated to the standing section, where I hovered over several Instagram influencers as they ate, hoping in vain that they might toss me a breadstick. (This is also how things worked at Versailles.) However, the sight of Mickey Rourke graciously accepting applause with Egor, and knowing Lil Pump was probably paid in the mid-six figures to scream “Eskeddit” for 8-ish minutes, made it all worth it. With Philipp Plein, you get what he pays for.

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