Sex sells, and so do sneakers.
Philipp Plein is feeling bullish as his company springs back from COVID-19, with plans to open a new showroom on Milan’s Via Burlamacchi later this year. (The still-rough venue, which spans 15,000 square feet, served as the party and screening space for his spring 2022 show film featuring Megan Fox.) He’s also drawing up plans to open a restaurant, bar and club “and maybe even a hotel” in an historical Milan building next year. But the ink isn’t dry yet, so he wasn’t giving any more details.
Plein’s sneakers, displayed like glittering treasures from an Egyptian tomb on the roof of the new building, will generate around 70 million euros in turnover this year, he said. That’s about 30 percent of the brand’s revenue, which is set to be in excess of 200 million euros.
The designer and businessman believes his new, omnichannel focus is paying dividends, too, with half of all sales now coming from online, and more than 20 million euros of that driven by Farfetch alone. The designer claimed his men’s wear collection is consistently one of the top performers on the site. Physical stores are still a big part of the strategy, though, and Plein plans to open a total of 27 stores by the end of 2021. There currently are 95 Philipp Plein stores and 26 Billionaire units.
The business has witnessed a rough few years, with a major restructuring in 2019, a new emphasis on digital and direct-to-consumer channels and COVID-19, of course, which hammered the top and bottom lines of the business. Plein said late last year he expected sales to be down 30 percent in 2020. Earlier this year, he also found himself facing an employee discrimination lawsuit in a New York court, and has robustly denied the allegations.
Judging from the lavish party at the new showroom — Team Plein spray-painted the walls with graffiti while the German pastry chef Ernst Knam laid a banquet table with sweets iced in white, purple and gold; and the vodka, Prosecco and novelty martinis flowed — things are certainly looking up.
There was a sinister edge to the evening, though, with bartenders and waiters wearing white bunny heads — a telltale sign that Steven Klein was somewhere nearby.
The digital film, “Night Games,” could easily have been called the Plein-Klein show. The two have been collaborating for nearly a decade and worked together on the film, a lush production that took in themes of entitlement, isolation and emptiness. Filmed by Klein, at night, in Plein’s Bel Air home, Chateau Falconview, it was a cross between “Eyes Wide Shut” and a flashy, violent video game — plus more creepy bunnies.
Fox wore all sorts of pieces from the collection, including a short, strapless, ballerina dress with a jungle print inspired by the decor of the guesthouse at the Bel Air mansion. “Megan wanted it shorter for the film, so we made it shorter – obviously,” said Plein during a walk-through of the collection, which lit up like Vegas at night. Looks included a gold sequin tailored suit, silvery skyscraper platforms and other shoes with heels “like a knife,” and sunglasses edged with chunky, bespoke Preciosa crystals. Fox spent most of the film covered in sparkles and tinkling jewels, right down to the tiny crystal tears planted on her cheek.
Plein’s customers will no doubt want to flash their cash, and their flesh, once this collection hits the shop floor or the Farfetch screen.
There is more to come. The German designer isn’t just talking to rich ladies crying crystal tears, or muscly men in ripped-up denim and jackets with twinkling lapels. During COVID, Plein said he signed eight licensing agreements, including watches, furniture, wallpaper and children’s wear, while his first eyewear campaign (also shot by Klein) will be released later this year.
He’s busy growing the business again, and loves it. Asked him what he likes best about his day job he doesn’t hesitate. “I like doing whatever the f–k I want, doing things my way. I don’t see myself as a part of this industry, and I’ve always considered myself an outsider looking in.”
Plein added that, given all the consolidation in fashion and luxury of late, he’s proud to be at the helm of an independent and self-financed company. His biggest problem now, he said, is finding enough retail staff for the 27 new stores as some people are reluctant to return to work as furlough and stimulus programs start winding down.
He will persist. The self-taught businessman said that building a company means “falling on your face so many times, learning from your mistakes, and hoping you don’t make too many more.”