Despite what many “fashion” people might tell you, New York Fashion Week is just as exciting—at times more—than its counterparts: London, Milan, and Paris. This February, designers from all over the world ventured to the City that Never Sleeps to present their Fall collections in displays that ranged from understated to grand, and all areas in between. One, in particular, took the latter route as he is wont to do: German designer Philipp Plein.
Yes, the fashion industry’s most notorious and enigmatic character brought glitz and glamour to the chilly week, opting to present not one, but two collections this season at buzzy New York eateries The Grill and The Pool in Midtown Manhattan. It became the hottest ticket in town, in part due to the controversy surrounding claims that Plein was reportedly swindled of a $900,000 performance fee by a former member of Kanye West’s team (who alleged to be Kanye)—and the other due to Plein’s undeniable knack for theatricality. His shows have gone down in history for being full-blown spectacles; showmanship that resembles that of the late Lagerfeld for Chanel. This go-around, he did not disappoint.
The initial invitation read that guests would be treated to a three-course dinner and a special performance while taking in the latest from Billionaire and Plein’s namesake label. First came cocktails, then came course #1 right before Billionaire—a handsome parade of older gentlemen who looked like, well, billionaires.
“We expanded on eveningwear options for this capsule collection,” Plein said. “With classic dress codes infused in a modern and dandy way, luxe velvets, crocodile, silks, mink, sheepskin, and leather are interpreted to expand the worldly Billionaire’s wardrobe.” There was a certain joy emitted during this portion of the evening, a joy that came to a peak when he emerged with actor Mickey Rourke for the finale, a fever-dream of a moment that would usher in the second course right before presenting his eponymous collection.
A gaggle of diverse models—and cameos from rapper Lil Pump and Latin musician Maluma—would emerge wearing outlandish outfits of plaid, neon, studded belts, camouflage, and fringe. Plein monikers were given sci-fi makeovers, while crystalized sweatsuits melded comfort and luxury in a dazzling display.
Like most designers, Plein receives inspiration from a myriad of places; but it’s what he does with it after that sets himself apart from his contemporaries.
“The collection [was] inspired by 2014’s Noir Cowboy, bringing him to space—Space Cowboy. This evolution looks to the US, but mainly to the future. The tailoring, detailing, and styling—while still aligned with the brand’s DNA—is refined, mature, and toned down. It’s a new era of Plein elegance. You can see this on the fringe and stud detailing paired with Western-inspired accessories and a modern, grown-up touch.” While some would describe it as “all over the place” it was eclectic and full of variety—a fitting choice considering the many tastes and persuasions of Plein devotees around the globe.
Despite the grand display, Plein's shows represent something bigger; they show how important it is for a designer to understand their client. "I am my target customer and I am very focused on my customers," he explained. "My interactions with them continue to fuel my ideas of how their lifestyle and wardrobes can grow. This is why I deliver exactly what they want."
As the show drew to a close, the “special performer” was finally revealed. Lil Pump (who walked the show) performed “I Love It” (his song with Kanye ironically) to a beaming audience. It was, for Plein, myself, and everyone in attendance, a success.