“I’m A Maximalist and I’m Proud”: Philipp Plein on 25 Years of the Brand
Milan Fashion Week’s most theatrical affair just turned 25. This past weekend, Philipp Plein packed out a Milanese arena for its SS24 collection, and to celebrate the brand’s birthday, he brought his fans to the disco. As neon lights flashed and roller skaters careened past, models took the runway clad in the brand’s hallmarks: rainbow, rhinestones, and platforms. From bedazzled activewear sets and flame-emblazoned outerwear, Mr. Plein kept it cute and kitschy. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more camp, the show closed with models whirling into the air strapped into a chair swing. A self-described maximalist, Philipp Plein stepped aside with our market director Lucy Gaston after the show to talk about a quarter-century of the brand’s unmistakable DNA.
LUCY GASTON: So this show celebrates the 25th anniversary of Philipp Plein.
PHILIPP PLEIN: Yes. Philipp Plein was founded in 1998, when I was 20 years old. I was a law student at the time. A couple of years later, I stopped my university career to focus on this brand, and now we are here.
GASTON: How was your first show?
PLEIN: I’ve been doing shows for more than 12 years. I have to really look back. I started my first show in Milano in an old church, and Pierre Sarkozy, the son of former president Sarkozy of France, was DJing. Small venue, a couple of hundred people. I was super excited and nervous because I was not sure if people would come to my show.
PLEIN: It was a moment where fashion shows were very exclusive in Milano. Every brand had a small audience of a few editor-in-chiefs and a few VIPs, but we have been very inclusive from the beginning. I was very democratic and never wanted to exclude anyone. I wanted everybody to be part of my shows, so apart from the press and my clients, I invited my friends, my employees, and suppliers. And this is how the crowd has grown over the years to thousands of people.
GASTON: And now you have more than 2,000 people here today. What inspired the show?
PLEIN: I wanted to give people a little journey through the world of Philipp Plein. The show production was really ‘80s inspired. The whole styling was as well as the playlist.
GASTON: There was an ’80s vibe, the playlist was amazing. What’s your connection to that era?
PLEIN: We had one German song in there, Nena’s “99 Luftballons.” I was born in 1978, so this was the music I listened to when I was [a child] in the eighties. It gives me a lot of childhood memories, and it has a very happy mood that you don’t find in today’s music. And fashion always follows music because music is so powerful that it creates its own culture, its own tribe.
GASTON: What would you say is a signature of the Philipp Plein tribe?
PLEIN: The Philipp Plein tribe has always been a happy tribe. I always say to my designers, we are designers and not artists because our goal is to make people want to wear our clothes. The biggest compliment you can have as a designer is for normal people to buy and wear your designs.
GASTON: So it’s more important for you to compel your customers in your shows than to present it like an art form. The energy at the show felt like attending a big concert. It was so fun. You rarely are seeing so many people smile at shows.
PLEIN: When Siri [Lehland] opened the show, who is a transgender model, people were applauding. You don’t [often] have this energy at fashion shows. People are more serious, they’re more concentrated. Fashion is not to be taken too seriously, in my opinion. Our DNA was always to be a brand with a lot of happiness and a positive message. And I’m a maximalist and I’m proud of that. I stick to it.
GASTON: Do you think you have such a strong fan base because you’ve kept it so consistent, including with this show?
PLEIN: We have always worked for our customers and not for anybody else. Our relationship with our clients is different because we are very authentic. Everybody’s sold and whoever has not been sold yet is trying to sell right now, but a little bit of soul gets lost. And fashion has always been very personal.
GASTON: It sounds like the Philipp Plein DNA we saw tonight won’t be changing. Congratulations on the show.
PLEIN: Thank you.
GASTON: It was a blast.
PLEIN: Now the party starts.
GASTON: I’m going to go have a drink.