In my recent interview with Michael Kors – the fairy godfather of ultra-glam fashion – the American designer told me: “Fashion people sometimes think that to be chic or stylish you have to be sad and dour. And I don’t feel that way at all.”
It’s a point that not only applies directly to Philipp Plein – the German designer who first made his name selling dog beds and has since built a multimillion dollar fortune peddling sexed-up fashion to Mitteleuropean billionaires – but it’s also the bedrock on which he has built his business.
Where other fashion designers in Milan, the city in which Plein shows, mount their seasonal collections in lofty exhibition spaces and elegant palazzos – relying on the neutrality of a chic backdrop and a spare soundtrack to let their clothes do the talking – Plein will show his seasonal wares in aircraft hangars filled with monster trucks or giant walking robots and the whole effect is anything other than sad. Or dour.
Case in point, Plein’s SS20 collection, shown in Milan this weekend. Set to the backdrop of a Mad Max: Fury Road-inspired "Martian" landscape – complete with fluoro-tinged lunar module-cum-tractors – the collection was a close-cut, sexed-up, ultra-vigorous sound clash, full to the rhinestone-clad brim with Rebel Without A Cause-esque biker jackets, Bond-style tuxedos and This Is Spinal Tap-ready flame-doused sequinned blazers.
It was this overriding rock'n'roll theme – a theme that has become something of a Plein signature – that both dominated and made the show. A collaboration with glam rock band Kiss came in the form of (super-desirable and on-point) torn-up band tees, hoodies and printed jeans; all of which were worn with heavy-duty, multi-studded leather jackets, sharp monochromatic tailored pieces and slouchy black tracksuits.
This was Plein at his no-nonsense best: edgy and fun; creative and sexy. The fact of the matter, after all, is that the Plein man is not in the market for understated tailoring à la Armani, tricky trends à la Marni or deep, analytical reference points à la Prada. The Plein man wants to wear his wealth on his sleeve, but also his youth, his virility and his dangerousness too – and it’s a man for whom, with this new collection, Plein is catering perfectly.
Words: Teo Van den Broeke