SThe nicknames assigned to fashion designer Philipp Plein cannot be called flattering. The “New York Times” defined him as “King of Bling”, “Prahlemann und Söhne” the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” – and in fact Plein himself will have to admit that much is part of his public repertoire, but it is certainly not a euphemism.
Walk confidently down the scented aisle in the flamboyant Philipp Plein store on Berlin’s Ku’damm. Fans, employees, comrades and RTL celebrities like Sophia Thomalla are already waiting with champagne and appetizers in hand. Plein, who now lives in Switzerland and the United States, has returned to Germany because he has something to announce.
A book about him has been published. “Philipp Plein: From Nothing to a Fashion Empire. The Success Story of an Underdog”, written by fashion journalist Tobias Bayer, tells the story of a determined man who constantly fights against what he calls the fashion establishment and thus becomes one of the most successful German designers himself. he year he had a $200 million mansion built in L.A. His daily Instagram stories in the spacious private jet can certainly be understood as a figurative finger: “Look, I did it!”
WORLD: Mr Plein, because you never got the recognition you wanted in Germany, you once said somewhat breathlessly: “The prophet never counts for anything in his own country.” How do you feel about returning to Germany?
Philip Plein: I said this a long time ago. Now I really like going back to Germany. Unfortunately, too rarely, maybe two or three times a year.
WORLD: Yet in Germany there was always a hint of feeling unloved. Did she hurt you?
Full: NO. We have never been loved. This came more from the press, but our customers have always loved and supported Plein.
If you ask around in the fashion industry, many turn their noses up at Plein. Too pretentious, too vulgar, not at all sensual compared to other great designers who always want to pass as intellectuals because they can talk about ceramic art and exhibitions. Plein probably always thought that this wasn’t his world. In his shop in Ku’damm he prefers to talk like an economics student: products, sales markets, returns; These terms come up again and again. And in this currency he is actually incredibly successful.
A large “Philipp Plein” tattoo adorns Philipp Plein’s right forearm. The 700 euro sneakers are illuminated in the Berlin store, skull and rhinestone applications on jackets and shirts.
WORLD: Is it the “bling” that annoys your critics but attracts your fans?
Full: This has now become our trademark. We are a brand that thrives on maximalism. This is the DNA of the brand. We celebrate it to the fullest.
WORLD: So what do you want to achieve with your fashion?
Full: I want to release endorphins and make people happy.
Two young adults present at this event demonstrate that fashion can have a dimension of self-emancipation. While Verena Poth and Sophia Thomalla have their partners photographed for their Instagram channels, Onur Aydin and Don Julius Alessandro Kaleyta remain a little shyly on the sidelines. They are only 20 and 18 years old and are waiting for their model, who currently gives interviews: “When I wear Philipp Plein, I have more confidence in myself,” says Onur. “Then I want to connect with people more. You just feel cool.” His friend Don Julius Alessandro laughs in agreement: “I celebrate bright colors. Many people then look at me. I like this.”
Onur is half Turkish and half Albanian and Don Julius is half Bulgarian. Many of Plein’s clients are said to have migrant backgrounds. Is it because of the promise of progress that Plein continues to tout? His belief is that with hard work you can get to the top. He himself is the loser of Nuremberg, who rose to the Olympus of fashion after abandoning his law studies. He doesn’t have many friends there. Plein’s favorite discipline is still rebellion. It’s not always entirely clear who he is against, but he is vaguely aimed at the “establishment”. His fashion is reminiscent of the topos of hip-hop, which has always seen itself as a self-empowerment movement for the weak. Educated and wealthy people both provoke and excessively celebrate their economic progress with fat cars and expensive jewelry. Onur and Julius’ absolute desire to be seen raises strong parallels to this Hip Hip obsession with status symbols that serves social self-sufficiency. What in hip hop are Rolex watches and howling AMGS, in Plein there are glittering stones and skulls that literally scream at you. The childish desire for recognition is always completely shameless and honest, whether in Plein or hip-hop.
Plein is like a neoliberal manager who wants to catapult himself into a better life (especially financially) through self-execution. “Work hard, play hard” is his bid for inner dissatisfaction and unhappiness. That’s probably why Plein talked about his path to success at an event organized by shady motivational coach Jürgen Höller. Like once he wanted to sell luxury dog beds for 1,500 euros and he stuck to that price even though no one wanted them at first. “I love the expensive,” was his reasoning during Jürgen Höller’s appearance.
WORLD: Mr. Plein, do you actually see yourself more as an entrepreneur or as a stylist?
Full: I’m a dreamer and a believer and this is actually my main job. I believe in my dreams and in the end I make them come true.
WORLD: In a quote in the book you admit that fashion was never your true passion before.
Full: You can have the best product, but if no one knows about it, it will never be a commercial success. It’s all driven by the numbers. Many designers today are marketed on the open market like a football player. You get a five-year contract with a brand and if you don’t perform you get fired. Unfortunately, this is basically the prostitution of creativity.
Plein now casually signs autographs while answering questions. It’s Yilmaz’s turn, she should be around 40 years old. “I’m a big fan of yours,” he tells Plein, asking for a signature on the book he just bought. “I traveled 600 kilometers from Frankfurt am Main to see you.” Plein is happy about it, he says: “Drive carefully.” He himself will board the plane to Istanbul at the latest tomorrow morning to present his book there too.
WORLD: But now I have to ask you again: what is your vision of fashion?
Full: There hasn’t been a real fashion revolution in the last ten years. And that probably won’t happen in the next ten years. There are always revivals. The ’80s are coming back, the ’90s are coming back, but fashion isn’t really moving forward. Also because the consumer does not have the desire to experiment as some brands would like.