#CNI Lux Day 2: Philipp Plein On The Language Of Showmanship
Alice Newbold, Vogue Daily Editor, reporting live from the CNI Luxury Conference in Lisbon
Philipp Plein doesn’t sell fashion, he sells a lifestyle: a fast and furious one. His rock‘n’roll, more-is-more aesthetic, which is presented via biannual catwalk extravaganzas which cost millions and daily on his flash, often crass, Instagram account, has earned him favour with the nouveau riche, who also love spending and flaunting their cash.
His showmanship, however it is perceived, has legs. Within the Philipp Plein International Group, of which he is the founder, sits Philipp Plein, Plein Sport and Billionaire Couture, the equally bling-tastic men’s label founded by former Formula One boss Flavio Briatore in 2005. How did he penetrate a market deemed so tough for many fledgling brands? He shared his secrets and his unique vision of luxury with Suzy Menkes.
“I never planned to become a fashion designer, it was a long journey,” Plein said of how his small furniture brand has become an empire with around 200 stores and shop-in-shop presences across the world. He maintains that they “are a small fish in a shark tank”. He has never borrowed even one euro from a bank, because “no one believed in the brand, so no one would give me any money”. Last year, he showed who was boss when Philipp Plein made 300 million euros during the company’s most successful year.
Plein’s shows – with their UFOs, fireworks, burlesque performers, ghost houses and monster trucks – might seem like a gaudy marketing tool, but, he said, he was “forced to make them different”. Without an official slot on the fashion week schedule, he had to no option but to invite the fashion pack to a larger-than-life party. “I was scared, but people came from day one. Press might not come, but clients come.” He’s content with being an outsider in fashion, because on Instagram he has his own community, with one million followers and counting.
Indeed, his shows are never short of pop stars and rappers on the front row, because, “I’m a big kid,” Plein said with a smile. “You should never grow old in fashion because it’s so fast, you have to stay young. I try to make my childhood dreams come true and meet people who are my heroes.”
Does Plein believe that fashion follows music, or that music follows fashion? “Music and fashion are very similar, but there’s a big difference,” he mused. “Musicians never look to the fashion industry for inspiration, but fashion always looks to music. You can tell the type of music someone listens to by their clothes. It’s a culture, it’s a movement.”
On the subject of how Philipp Plein will evolve and adapt with advancing technology, such as the artificial intelligence Sophie Hackford proposed yesterday, he maintained that the industry is not ready for this yet. “Fashion seems forward thinking, but it’s one of the oldest economies in the world. It’s old school!”
What’s next? “I have no idea,” he said. “We don’t make five-year plans. We make 12-month plans, it’s too difficult to forecast. All my life I have gone with the flow.” For Plein, it’s important to keep an element of surprise, because the future, for him, is exciting enough.
The fourth annual Condé Nast International Luxury Conference is in Lisbon, on the 18th and 19th April. For more information, visit the website