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Philipp Plein is bringing his incongruous happy Goth aesthetic to Manhattan.
This story first appeared in the April 28, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Plein, a German born, Swiss-based designer, in September will open his first New York store, a 2,000-square-foot flagship at 625 Madison Avenue between 58th and 59th Streets.
“We already opened a showroom in New York and this was the next logical step,” said Plein. “It’s part of the expansion plan we have for the U.S.” The store will house collections for women, men and kids.
Plein opened a store at Miami’s Aventura Mall in October, and, in July, a Los Angeles unit bowed. “The next step is San Francisco, Aspen [, Colo.] and Las Vegas,” he said. “After that, we’d like to open corners in department stores. That’s the easiest way to develop our brand in the U.S.” Plein operates 30 full-price stores and one outlet in cities such as Monte Carlo, Saint-Tropez, Vienna, Moscow, Berlin and Düsseldorf. The designer is heading east with a showroom in Hong Kong and two stores in Seoul.
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Plein designs handbags in black and neon yellow with chains, T-shirts with skulls and pullovers that look like a spider’s web. But he’s no prince of darkness. Plein takes the rock ’n’ roll vibe to optimistic new heights.
“We are actually bright,” said Ludivine Pont, head of marketing. “The skull has become an iconic symbol. We are not focused on it the way we were a couple of years ago. Nevertheless, we have a skull in the entrance. It’s a presence.” The sculpture of a skull decorated with 50,000 Swarovski jewels greets shoppers entering some of Plein’s stores. The New York unit will have one also.
Plein took a circuitous route to fashion, attending law school before discovering that he enjoyed making furniture. For Moët & Chandon, he created a lounge at trade fair CPD Düsseldorf. “I designed some bags as well. I said, ‘Maybe I should get into fashion.’
“The brand is rock ’n’ roll,” Plein said. “For me, it’s a lifestyle, giving me the freedom to break the rules and do what you want and not always be politically correct. We’re an independent label, so we can do what we want to do.”
One thing he doesn’t do is repeat themes for his collections. “We are a fashion brand,” he said. “We change every season. I like to go with the flow and get new inspiration. There’s inspiration coming from music.”
Plein always looks for a strong theme for his lines. “We did a cowboy and casino theme,” he said. “I started researching. I listened to Quentin Tarantino songs and looked at ‘Dallas’. When I have a strong topic that gives me freedom, to play, I try to dig into the theme and build a world around it.”
With his unabashed attitude, Plein is no stranger to controversy. For his fall women’s show in Milan, Plein had Grace Jones perform “I’ve Seen That Face Before.” Singer Iggy Azalea opened the show with a performance of “Work.” The show was closed by Ethiopian supermodel Liya Kebede. And in fall 2011, Plein featured Lindsay Lohan as the face of his brand.
“America is a new market we’re trying to conquer step by step,” he said. “It’s a very mature and educated market. I’m opening a store on Madison Avenue and not in SoHo or the Meatpacking District because we’re a luxury brand. It’s important for the first store to have the right address. We have a young image, but we have expensive price points and produce everything in Italy.”
A T-shirt with the image of a mirrored winged unicorn is $675; a pink, mint and gold quilted leather jacket with hardware, $5,177, and ballerina flats with rhinestone skulls, $582.
“Philipp Plein’s commitment to 625 Madison Avenue is another prime example of how the area south of Barneys New York has taken off,” said Jeffrey Roseman, a real estate broker at Newmark Grubb Knight Frank Retail, who represented the landlord. “Once thought of as a lesser corridor, Plein will now join retailers like Fendi, Canali, Fratelli Rossetti and Montblanc.” Diane Mandel, Susan Teplitz and Peter Weisman of Lansco represented the tenant.
“We established ourselves in Milan the last few seasons,” Plein said when asked whether he would ever do a runway show in New York. “We’re the new generation of fashion brands. We’re very cosmopolitan and very open minded. We’re open to everything.”