Outside of the New York Public Library on Monday night, only hours before Philipp Plein would stage his first ever New York show, a Black Lives Matter protest was taking place, marching down Fifth Avenue. Photographers arrived in confusion, as the scene slowly shifted into Plein’s spectacle: a series of Elvis impersonators strolled the plaza outside the library, dressed in variations of The King’s garb — from a full white suit regalia to the Naked Cowboy, in boots and a white Speedo, strumming a version of “Hound Dog.” Women painted green and dressed like the Statue of Liberty flanked the entrance and soon began visibly shivering, due to the February evening chill. Plein diehards, with big hair, big furs and, in one case, a pair of glittery lips that resembled ruby-red slippers, slowly made their way into the building, where the designer had constructed an American-themed, neon-lit set for his New York debut.
Sitting next to a fur-encased Andrew Warren was Tiffany Trump, patiently waiting for the show largely unguarded. “His collection is always so eclectic and amazing so I’m excited to see the show. I think having it take place at the New York Public Library already shows it’s going to be a pretty spectacular show,” she said. “I walk past [the Philipp Plein store] on Madison Avenue and I mean, [they are] very fun window displays.”
Across the rotunda from the youngest Trump daughter, Victoria’s Secret model Taylor Hill was there playing the role of supportive sister. “My brother is walking in the show. This is his second show ever,” she said, adding that she didn’t have much advice to pass on. “It’s kind of hard for me because he’s a boy, and it’s a whole different spiel. I just tell him to chill — ‘you’re just walking, stand up straight,’ those kinds of things.”
Carine Roitfeld worked with Plein in styling his New York debut, and while she noted she didn’t want to discuss her involvement, she briefly stated, “it’s very exciting. I’m French, so I would love to see the idea of a German and a French of New York,” before turning back to the cameras.
“I’ve been friends with Philipp for many years, and I actually just walked in his show in Milan,” said Paris Hilton, who is making a few stops at fashion week before celebrating her birthday on Friday. “I always DJ his parties. I love his collections — it’s very me. It’s his first show in New York, so he wanted to go all out. It’s not your typical fashion show. Philipp doesn’t do anything lowkey. It’s going to be a whole experience, and then a beautiful dinner, and then a sick after party.”
Plein clearly took New York to be synonymous with rap and hip-hop; he sent Desiigner, Young Thug and Fetty Wap down the runway in his designs, and had a front row stacked with Grandmaster Flash, Fat Joe, Slick Rick and more.
“My wife recommended it,” said Slick Rick, popping out his earbuds for a brief chat. “She has some friends who know about this type of stuff, and she said I should come with her. This is my first [show] ever.”
Fat Joe spoke more simply about his reasons for a NYFW appearance. “His energy. Him being innovative…he’s the future. He does it better than anybody,” he said. “You cover a fashion event, you’ve never seen anything like this. You got Grandmaster Flash, first DJ ever….We all love Philipp Plein and his energy.”
Grandmaster Flash noted he was new to the brand but had done his homework nonetheless. “I was called to come sit in the front row and watch the fashion show,” he said. “Now, I get called and asked quite a bit, but when I researched him, the kind of stuff that he’s doing, I said, ‘Let me come out here and take a look. Let me see what that feels like.’ He’s off the beaten path with his style, so I want to see what it is. How you see on the computer and how you see it for real…I don’t want to give a definitive answer, because I don’t have one yet. So I’m going to see how this thing feel when it starts…whenever it starts.”
Ah, the question of the night. Nearly an hour after the promised start time, the show was stalling for Madonna; even Kylie Jenner and Tyga had shown up in — relatively — timely fashion. At least one prominent critic left shortly before the Material Girl arrived, where she sat slouched over with elbows on knees, making small talk with Jenner.
Nas performed to kick off the show, which featured a speech by Plein (held for a moment due to a mic failure) and a set by The Kills to serenade the models down the runway. Hip-hop group 2 Live Crew was scheduled to go on after the finale, but a mix-up cut the show short and no final walk took place. Instead, the group rapped their way through the now-swarmed room, trying to make it to the stage.
Upstairs on the library’s third floor space after the show, many of the promised VIPs abandoned their name cards and disappeared into the night. Jeremy Meeks, a model known virally as the “hot felon” after his mugshot gained attention when the Stockton, Calif., Police Department posted it online in 2014, made his catwalk debut opening the show for Plein.
“It was amazing. It just wasn’t what I thought it was going to be,” he said, milling about before dinner. “The adrenaline rush was a high I’ve never felt before, and I just fell in love with it.” He added that runway work is something he’d like to continue down the line, now that he is a free man. “Yes, definitely, definitely. I got some things in the works,” he said.
At 11 p.m., Drake suddenly started blaring from speakers, and several guests noshed on dinner rolls and burrata — the same menu served at amfAR last week. Watching them eat, a man with an animal skin hat, tail dangling, stood laughing, picking apart cotton candy.