The designer believes in an excessive and cheerful fashion, which is conquering the market despite the criticism of the industry
His fashion? Funny, opulent and deliberately excessive. With his provocative and spectacular shows, a Swarovski-studded skull as an emblem, and a transgressive rock style, Philipp Plein has emerged as one of the leading names in international fashion.
From its headquarters in Lugano, Switzerland, without following any social and creative hierarchy, this self-made man so loved by the stars of the world of music and sport, such as 50 Cent, Nicki Minaj, Paris Hilton, Ronaldo and Mauro Icardi, is managed to turn his name into an independent and successful fashion brand with a precise identity.
Here’s how he himself told himself in a recent interview.
You debuted in 1998 in design, creating furniture in crocodile leather and steel. How did fashion arrive?
In a completely random way. One day I was presenting my new interior collection at an international furniture fair and in doing the display of a wardrobe I had customized a military parka of those bought by weight in the markets with a skull made of Swarovski on the back. That day I received more requests for the jacket than for the wardrobe, to the point that, to the umpteenth request, I fired a high price to discourage buyers, but they wanted it anyway. I sold parka for a million euros in a year. A sofa or a kitchen are durable goods over time, a piece of clothing has a decidedly shorter life. So I realized that it would be a business opportunity not to let go. The rest is history.
When you started to succeed, the fashion system rowed against you. Why? Do you still feel hostility towards you?
The fashion system has always ruled against me, but I’m used to it. Already as a teenager I was an unconventional type. I wore long hair when all the boys had short hair and wore cargo pants and polo shirts. I tried to adapt, but after a few months I realized that I was not the problem and that I was not at all costs to insert myself into a system that did not really reflect me. That’s how I manage my business now that I’m in the fashion industry, I create my own rules and impose my way of communicating.
Philipp Plein is a real lifestyle. How did you manage this business? What differentiates you from other brands?
The main difference is that I am the brand and if it were not so, Philipp Plein would not have this success. We do not simply offer a fashion line, but a lifestyle, made up of sports, music, entertainment and luxury. Ours is a very inclusive brand, I like to involve my clients in my life, on Instagram for example I share many moments of my work and personal routine, and I always try to invite my customers and fans to the parades to make them feel an integral part of the our world. This approach was in part the key to my success.
Your shows are always provocative and spectacular, certainly not go unnoticed. How are ideas born? And above all, let’s have a curiosity, how much is your fashion show?
In the age of social media, shows are an important communication tool, through which a brand can and must communicate its world not only to journalists and buyers, but to everyone. I conceive of them as a real show, so I do not mind shopping and I want you to talk about it. I have come to invest more than 3 million euros for a show.
Do you consider yourself more a designer or a businessman?
I do not think the two can be so different. I would still say 60% business, 40% designer.
Diamond-studded skulls are your style. Why this obsession? Where are the ideas born?
The skull has been used for many centuries with different meanings. My personal attraction for this fetish has more to do with nonconformity and rock and roll. It is a lucky charm much appreciated by my clientele. I chose to create skulls as an element of interior design for my shops and showrooms, real pieces of art. I do a lot of research, I pay attention to details and I’m very curious. Traveling a lot, I have the opportunity to meet people who inspire me and to discover new trends in person. I am also inspired by art, film and the music world. I am my target, my client represents me and it is natural for me to be in tune with them, both in tastes and expectations, very high.
Even the one for the machines seems to be your obsession. You have two Rolls Royces, a Lamborghini, a Range Rover, a Bentley, an Audi and a Porsche. Modesty is not really your style.
I am German and Germany is the home of the car industry. Cars are part of our culture. Luxury cars reflect me a lot, because they mix speed, technology and design, a bit like I do in my collections and my shows. And then, I have a dense agenda that I could never go slow. My life is a continuous race. It is not a question of obsession or modesty, it is passion for everything that reflects me and I like it. I have no vices or even free time, I move a lot in the car and I do not use the driver, because I should not drive a car that I like and that makes the trip more enjoyable?
You have a house in New York that looks like a small Palace of Versailles, an estate in Cannes, and a little house in the mountains in Bel Air. Where do you really feel at home?
I am a citizen of the world, I feel at home everywhere. Interior design is something that I have never abandoned and I love to carry on in my homes and offices, traveling a lot and having offices all over the world I have found it convenient and comfortable to create pied-a-terre for myself and my guests. I really like buying houses and redoing them completely according to my taste. I look forward to both 2020, to inaugurate my new home in Bel Air, I called it Chateux Falcon View, it’s the hardest business I’ve ever faced, the house of my dreams. Surely I will keep a big party in Plein style.
Returning to fashion. What are the current collections? And what kind of man do you like to dress?
Currently the Philipp Plein group has 4 brands: Philipp Plein, Plein Sport, Billionaire and the newborn Philipp Plein Active. I created PP with a specific target of me and my friends. So the brands in my name follow them personally and reflect 100% my style and that of my customers. I like giving people what they expect me to give them. Billionaire instead is designed by Mr. Plutus and is dedicated to all those businessmen, playboy and successful entrepreneurs who have a lifestyle that many would call “over the top” and who love to show off their wealth, dressing in quality clothes made of very sought-after materials, among which the exotic leathers undoubtedly stand out.
You have decided to leave New York to return to fashion in Milan. Was it a marketing strategy or a necessity?
None of the two. I have always been linked to Milan. The first show was here in my showroom, I owe a lot to this city and to Italy, where I produce a large part of my collections. So it was more a choice of heart.
For the next three years, you will design the official uniforms of Monaco. What do you think of the increasingly close relationship between fashion and sport?
Both As Monaco and Philipp Plein do their best to be at the top in their respective sectors and offer the most exciting experience to the fans, them with the matches, me with my shows and collections. I am very close to the Côte d’Azur and the Principality of Monaco and our collaboration was born in a very natural way. Sportsmen, like hip hop musicians, are the real idols of the contemporary world, once the actors were, now the red carpet dictates less and less trends. Today a footballer or a rider is taken as a model also in style, they are athletic guys and with a strong passion for style and fashion, it was inevitable that they would become ambassadors for international brands.
Philipp Plein is a totally independent brand, present in 64 countries, with a turnover of around 250 million. What is the secret of this success?
I have a great determination and this is perhaps the only secret. I know what I want and I do not stop until I get it. It may seem that I have achieved success very soon but it is not so. I founded my interior company when I was 21, I was at university and at the time I never thought of becoming a fashion designer, but when you’re young you never know what life reserves you. When there was a breakthrough in fashion, I followed this inversion of course with passion and determination, and today the Philipp Plein group has more than 250 single-brand stores in the world.
Next year you will celebrate 20 years from the birth of the brand. Is there still a dream to be realized?
I will always have dreams to come true and new goals to pursue. Just the way I am. In 2019 we will launch a Philipp Plein perfume, achieving a vast target and an incredible brand awareness.
They call you extravagant, eccentric, rebellious. Who is really Philipp Plein?
Everyone creates their own opinions and people see what they want to see or let us see. I am a great worker, a dreamer and a lover of all that is beautiful. And much more. I do not like talking about myself, I prefer my job to do it.