From crypto to virtual land, Philipp Plein is all in.
One would be hard-pressed to find another fashion designer as excited about the digital world and its tools and Plein, president and chief executive officer of his namesake group, was among the first to fully embrace the potential of the metaverse.
His company opened up to cryptocurrencies last year, accepting more than 20 types as means of payment both in its brick-and-mortar stores and on its e-commerce, which the designer is proud to say is managed directly in-house. “We never outsourced it, never worked with an agency, so we have a lot of knowledge,” Plein said at the WWD Metaverse Symposium in Paris.
“Many talk about the new technology, but few are actually using it,” said Plein. “At first, I thought cryptocurrencies sounded cool and fashionable, I didn’t really believe in crypto. We started as an experiment, but now I do. And there is a big future for this kind of payment method. I also believe in the metaverse, NFTs and Web 3.0, which stand for a new beginning, a new era.”
The German designer differentiated between “users and abusers” of cryptocurrencies, with the former using them for “daily transactions.” He included his mother as one of the latter. “My mother, who is close to 70, she owned crypto even before me, but she does not know how to use them as currency, she’s just waiting to sell them to make a profit, which is something I would not recommend now” given the steep decline in their value recently.
Plein said he’s seen 77 percent of transactions on his site and in his stores made with Bitcoins and Ethereums, the first and biggest cryptocurrencies used. “There is a big future for this kind of payment method,” he argued, citing other brands and platforms that have been accepting cryptocurrencies, from Gucci and Off-White to Farfetch, which is a positive in his opinion.
“It’s a good beginning and we must educate consumers, although there are 35 countries where cryptocurrencies are prohibited.” The U.S. is the market where crypto payments are most used by his customers, followed by Germany, Spain, Italy and Austria.
Plein insisted on “user-friendly” web procedures, which “must be easy and simple, consumers are lazy, it must be as simple as using an iPhone.”
This also is because those paying in crypto are willing to spend more, he contended. Of the brand’s 100 million euros in sales, 3 percent of transactions are paid in cryptocurrencies.
Plein’s average order value is 600 euros and it spikes 85 percent higher when paid in cryptocurrencies. Also, he said 73 percent of customers using cryptocurrencies are new to the group, which comprises the Philipp Plein brand, founded in 1998, Plein Sport, which is being revamped and was launched in 2018 and Billionaire.
In February, the Plein Group purchased a plot of land in the Decentraland metaverse, the 3D virtual reality platform powered by the Ethereum blockchain. “Nobody knows if Decentraland will be the leader but it gives us opportunities, there are less boundaries than other worlds,” explained Plein.
The fashion company, which is based in Lugano, Switzerland, bought the estate for a price of 510,000 Manas — Decentraland’s own cryptocurrency — corresponding to approximately $1.4 million.
Dubbed Plein Plaza, the estate is claimed to be situated in a prime location directly overlooking one of the Genesis Plazas, framed and accessible from two roads, and covers 65 Decentraland parcels, the equivalent of about 176,528 square feet in the real world.
Plein admitted that this was an investment that will not bring him a financial return.
“I will never see this money again, I lost the $1.4 million for sure. The investment was in knowledge and education, as if we were paying for college or private classes. We can learn and try things that others are just talking about or never heard about. Being first has its advantages,” Plein contended.
He recounted how his mother, with her love of fashion that she has passed on to the designer, embodies Plein’s consumer and how she was “skeptical” about this purchase.
“If I cannot convince her I cannot convince my clients,” said Plein about changing consumer attitude to the metaverse. He compared Decentraland and the metaverse to a “playground where people can try things. We are at the beginning of something huge and amazing and we cannot imagine what the metaverse will do to us.”
Plein is building one out of three skyscrapers to house MoNA, or Museum of NFT Art, where digital artists will be invited to showcase their creative output. “It’s about having fun.”
In February, the designer christened the revamped Plein Sport line as the first “metaverse-native” fashion line. Guests at the brand’s show during Milan Fashion Week were greeted by a humanoid robot called Romeo 1.0. For the occasion, the brand dropped a see-now-buy-now range of 10 sneaker styles, each coming with an NFT counterpart.
In April, Plein opened a lime green crypto pop-up on Bond Street in London that offers prices in alternative digital currencies, an NFT art gallery and a free trading platform for metaverse art. Each product carries a QR code that contains the price in pounds, and in 25 cryptocurrencies. Digital currencies fluctuate every five minutes, so prices can be hard to pin down. With the QR code, customers paying with crypto can see the latest price, and pay on the spot.
“We want to make sure you pay the right price and we want to manage your returns so that you get the same amount,” said Plein.
“The metaverse will go up and down like cryptocurrencies, but it will be much faster than you can imagine today.” He conceded that the “amount of users is very small,” and that not many people know what the metaverse or an NFT is, but luxury brands, which were slow to embrace online commerce, “don’t want to make the same mistake” with these new technologies, he remarked.