Not many designers can say they started out with law school before getting side-tracked by luxury dog beds, but Philipp Plein can. That describes the unconventional beginning the 41-year-old German designer had before he found his way into the world of fashion. Today, he is known for an irreverent, flashy design aesthetic that has racked him up a legion of devoted fans.
Think club-ready clothes—ripped t-shirts, skin-tight patent leather, metal-studded jackets, and daring party dresses—often described as “manic luxury” for their unapologetically loud style. There are naysayers of course—members of the fashion cognoscenti who deem his clothes too over-the-top, but the designer blithely brushes off criticism, focusing solely on his clients — all while making near-constant headlines. From provocative ad campaigns to multi-million-dollar runway shows frequently fronted by celebrity performers, life-size rollercoasters, monster trucks, and explosions aplenty, the man has clearly earned his reputation as the king of excess.
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In town for the opening of his first flagship boutique in Southeast Asia at Marina Bay Sands, he speaks to Bazaar about his journey as a designer, his thoughts on success and his plans for world domination.
What is your personal philosophy when it comes to fashion design?
My philosophy is simple. I do what I want.
Do you believe that more is always more?
No, I don’t think so. You have to have a sense for the right amount of wrong. And the right amount of wrong is basically at the edge. If you go too far, you will fall. If you’re exactly at the edge, it can be very cool and really edgy. But if it’s too much, then you can destroy everything.
How do you find that edge, then?
That’s the fun part about it, there’s no formula. You have to know your own borders, and keep yourself under control. It’s like driving a really fast car, and trying not to crash.
What do you think sets your brand apart from everything else happening in fashion right now?
Myself. Fashion brands are created by a person who gives the brand a soul and a DNA. That’s the thing about Gianni Versace, Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, whoever comes to mind. Nowadays, many brands don’t have personalities anymore. On top of that, there are so many products on the market. What makes them become interesting? That’s the soul that is linked to the brand, not just to the product, because the product is changeable. And right now, there’s so much product on the market, and everyone has more than enough clothes. That makes every fashion purchase a luxury purchase. What is luxury? It’s when you consume more than you actually need. Everyone in the civilized world has enough clothes today. When someone still comes into a store to buy something, they’re looking for something more. They’re looking for an experience. And I give it to them.
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You’ve been known to say that you don’t design for the industry, you design for your clients. In your mind, who is your client?
When I think about my clients, it’s not about nationality, or gender, or even age. I think my client is anyone who wants to have something different. They want to have fun. I’m a niche market brand. Obviously, I’m expensive, so you have to have a certain amount of money to buy my products. I tried to be cheap once but I couldn’t do it, you need completely different infrastructure. So, I have to remain exclusive and expensive, meaning I have to be different and special. And by creating a brand, you create your own culture. It’s almost like a religion. When we do something, people get really excited. People line up for it.
Your new boutique in Singapore is your first flagship store in Southeast Asia. What’s your vision for the brand in this region?
When I came to Singapore six or seven years ago, I remember thinking, wow, it would be a dream for our store to be in this mall. I never expected to have such a big one, like we have now. We have a goal for this region: We want people to understand who we are. I have seen many cities in Asia and I haven’t seen a single one that’s comparable to Singapore. It’s so exciting and modern. We are conquering the world, and Singapore is an important part of that.
What can we expect next from the brand?
Let’s just say, we are going to build a dynasty.
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