MILAN, JANUARY 16, 2016
by LUKE LEITCH
Backstage before the show, over champagne and Red Bull—50/50 with ice—Philipp Plein said he’d decided to lean against his own reputation for showmanship a little: “I don’t want to blow everything up. I want to be Philipp Plein, but a bit more unexpected.”
That’s not to say this wasn’t a show with a lot going on. It opened with a shaggy-haired classical conductor on a podium framed in a cage of green laser beams. He conducted the Ride of the Valkyries with forceful puffing expression while an animated movie of POV superhero flight played on a screen at the back of the runway. That lifted to reveal a 30-piece orchestra on a scaffold around a DJ with two sets of decks. L’il Wayne came out in Plein drop-crotch pants to great applause, and performed for maybe a minute before storming out in a not-so-gangster hissy fit apparently because the show had started late. Lame. Then a group of BMX-ers and skaters wreathed in LED cables pulled some excellent tricks on specially erected jump ramps coated in real marble and lined with gold.
And then the collection! This contained some signs of evolution. Overwhelmingly black, bar the surprise interjection of fine gray check wool and cable knits, it did of course contain a fair spattering of Swarovski. Had Plein somehow tapped up simultaneous licenses from DC and Marvel? Because Lucky Blue opened the show in a suit with Swarovski emblems of Captain America’s shield on his arm, and there were backpacks and jackets with the Bat symbol, and the Supe symbol, and a bit of Spiderman, and perhaps the Suicide Squad, too. The clothes were quite interesting. Parkas and bombers and track pants were pieced together in panels of leather and quilted velvet that followed the bat-suit contours of muscle and body. There was tailoring—new for Plein—cut unusually as performancewear. It fit very well. The models carried skateboards in croc with Swarovski grip tape. There were a lot of hats, wide-brimmed: It was, said Plein, a Bieber thing. I left fast as the staff were pushing in the wheeled vodka bars—as usual, it was post-Plein party time. Outside, there was a guy flying a jet pack.
This U.S. has not yet felt the full force of this Munich wunderkind, but watch out: “America is the next target to focus on. It is a difficult market because it is a saturated market but we will try,” Plein said. Leading this push will be Graziano de Boni, formerly of Armani and Prada, who has been newly appointed as Plein’s President and CEO for the Americas. Plein added, “We’re aiming to open 30 stores in the next three to five years in the U.S. It is also about making the brand more famous in the U.S.—this is something we really have to develop.” Plein understands spectacle. Don’t underestimate him.