Advertisement
Philipp Plein

Philipp Plein Lives Like a King: But Where Does He Get His Money?

By

Jul. 23 2021, Updated 10:18 a.m. ET

The world of fashion design can often be cutthroat. But one designer in particular fits the description to a T, embattled again and again over accusations of design theft and poor-taste behavior. Philipp Plein lives out loud on Instagram, showing off his ostentatious home and numerous cars. But with mediocre designs and a myriad of controversies, where is he getting his millions from? The tale of Plein’s rise to power is full of scandal and problematic behavior, leaving fashion critics to wonder who is actually buying his designs? 

Article continues below advertisement

Plein Strikes it Rich

Philipp Plein

To talk about present day Plein, you have to talk first about how he rose to prominence. And most people would be surprised by the answer. Plein struck it rich designing (drum roll) … dog beds. Yes, dog beds. The pop icon-esque human clothing designer once spent hours between law school classes pouring over the intricate details of pooch pillows. Plein’s designs attracted attention from the right sort of people, and soon he was using leftover leather from his pooch designs to segue into human fashion; and the rest is history. Although it’s fair to ask “whose history?” 

Once he became an official designer of human fashion, Plein was almost immediately beset with controversy. 

Article continues below advertisement

Copy/Paste, Again

//philipp plein designer where does money come from quote

For all of the controversies we’re about to share, Plein does have a fair bit of impressive collaborative and design currency under his belt. The German-born designer has sold his pieces around the world, collaborated with Barbie, and worked with Germany’s Next Top Model. Plein has also had a number of important celebs pound the runway or pose for ads at his shows including Courtney Love and Lindsay Lohan

Article continues below advertisement

With chops like that, why would anyone copy another designer’s work? Critics of Plein would say it’s because he’s arrogant or lazy, while supporters would say he takes creative inspiration from other designers’ work. In reality, his tendency to copy other design pieces has been noted over and over. 

Article continues below advertisement

World renowned fashion designer Alexander Wang at one point accused Plein of stealing his work for a runway show. Wang posted on social media comparison videos of his show and Plein’s, with the caption reading, “Can I copy your homework? Yeah [sic] just change it up a bit so it doesn’t look like you copied.” Plein’s team rebutted the accusation, saying it’s impossible to steal another designer’s work. And, to be fair, that’s the only defense you can make when you keep stealing other designers’ work. 

Article continues below advertisement

If only it had ended there, perhaps Plein’s reputation wouldn’t be so fraught. But of course, it didn’t. Plein was also accused of stealing a design from world-famous brand Dior made in collaboration with Shawn Stussy. Dior’s design showed playful, swooping, handwritten examples of the Dior logo and big bold flowers drawn in black print against a stark white background. Plein soon released a design with playful, swooping, handwritten examples of his Plein logo—with the one real glaring difference being the signature Plein skulls replacing Dior’s flowers. 

Article continues below advertisement

You would think that running afoul of fashion titans like Wang and Dior would be enough to chastise any designer and keep them on the straight and narrow. But Plein seems to revel in the motto, “all press is good press.” Even when it makes him look really, really bad. The copy/paste designs didn’t stop there either.

Another notable accusation of stolen design came when Plein released a studded black shoe that looked eerily like a design from Louboutin. Of course he didn’t go so far as to copy the signature red soles that Louboutin is so famed for, but everything else looks pretty much the same. 

Article continues below advertisement

But let’s say we believe that it’s true that designs can’t be stolen because inspiration can be freely had. Let’s say Plein’s imitation is really just a high form of flattery. At least he’s a good guy, right? Well, that’s open to interpretation.  

Article continues below advertisement

Plein vs Ferrari

Philipp Plein

Plein’s shady image is highlighted in a case that was taken to court between the designer and none other than Ferrari. Plein is known for posing with and sharing his Ferraris on Instagram, but he took it a step too far when he took a picture of shoes he designed on a Ferrari with the car’s logo clearly visible. Ferrari wasn’t happy. Usually, fashion companies (and fashion-adjacent luxury brands) love when other big names shout out their products. Ferrari, however, clearly felt that Plein’s name attached to their logo was a liability. They sent Plein a cease and desist letter, telling him to immediately stop displaying their logo in his social media posts. 

Article continues below advertisement

NSS Mag shares, “In the letter sent to Plein [in 2017], the brand’s legal counsel mentions that Plein’s use of the Ferrari’s logo is in alignment ‘with a lifestyle totally inconsistent with its brand perception, in connection with performers making sexual innuendoes and using Ferrari’s cars as props in a manner which is per se distasteful.

This possibly being in referral to a video the designer posted of his girlfriend spraying a bottle of wine on one of the cars while dressed in a bathing suit, several other images and videos of scantily clad women posing with the cars, as well as the designer’s affiliation with artists like Chris Brown and Tekashi 6ix9ine who have both faced charges for sexual assault.

Article continues below advertisement

This type of behavior, according to the company is harmful as it ‘tarnishes the reputation of Ferrari’s brands and causes Ferrari material damage.’ At the end of the letter, Ferrari’s legal counsel formally asks the designer to remove the images ‘no later than 48 hours from the receipt of the letter’ if not, the sports car manufacturer states it will bring the designer’s ‘unlawful, unfair and harmful behavior to the attention of the Courts.’”

Article continues below advertisement

That is absolutely scathing language from one luxury brand to another and tells people quite clearly where Ferrari stands on the personal image of Philipp Plein. Ferrari did end up suing Plein after he did not respect the cease and desist. The designer tried to settle out of court by appealing to an issue that was front and center at the time and offering to donate to Black Lives Matter. Ferrari refused to accept a donation to the BLM cause as a mea culpa, and the lawsuit proceeded. Ferrari eventually won the case in 2020 and Plein was ordered to stop displaying the Ferrari logo in a way that seemed to advertise his brand alongside theirs. Plein got around the terms of the court order by continuing to pose with his cars – logo hidden off-camera. 

But wait, there’s more. 

Article continues below advertisement

Bad Behavior and Bad Designs?

Philipp Plein

If you really really loved Plein’s designs, maybe you could overlook the design theft and the disrespectful way he treats his peers, but his bad behavior goes beyond the copy/paste design controversies. 

Article continues below advertisement

In 2019, Plein came under fire for fat-shaming a fashion writer who was quite critical of one of his shows. Among other tasteless volleys, Plein compared the writer to Spongebob Squarepants character Patrick Star; a character well-known to be gluttonous and not particularly bright. To his credit, Plein did apologize once called out. The designer explained that he was hurt by her words and reacted emotionally. So, clearly he’s thoughtful and remorseful when he behaves poorly, right? 

Article continues below advertisement

Well, not exactly. Plein’s worst controversy to date came in 2020. In early 2020, basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and 7 others were killed in a helicopter crash. Plein decided to make his Milan Fashion Week show a tribute to Bryant, creating bedazzled sports jerseys in Bryant’s team colors—Lakers purple and gold. The finishing touch was Bryant’s jersey number, “24,” and of course Plein’s name plastered in big gold letters across the top. One could perhaps argue that it was a nice effort, if a little tacky.

Article continues below advertisement

But when the curtain raised on Plein’s show, on stage sat two, life-sized, gold helicopters amid a garage-style setting with several other stylized gold vehicles. In tribute to Bryant—who died in a helicopter a month before. People were horrified, and the internet exploded with criticism of the decision. Plein’s team defended the helicopters, saying they had been ordered months before. Supporters pointed out that it clearly wasn’t designed to insult. But critics wouldn’t have it as people called it gross, distasteful, disrespectful, and cruel. 

NBC shares Plein’s explanation; “‘This tragedy affected myself and all the world deeply and I feel that my fashion show [has] been the best moment to express my respect and admiration for Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and his family,’ Plein said.

Article continues below advertisement

‘It is sad to see how something positive and constructive can be misinterpreted by people who obviously want to interpret negatively without even having a reason,’ he added.”

Article continues below advertisement

So Who is Walking Around with ‘Plein’ Plastered Everywhere? 

//philipp plein designer where does money come from quote

With so much bad news about Plein, who’s still buying his clothing? It’s clear from his myriad cars on Instagram and mansion-like home, Plein is doing quite well for himself. But his designs are arguably not in line with current high fashion and no one seems to be diehard Plein fans. In this case, his success is probably more about who he knows than who’s buying. Plein has friends in the highest levels of society, and he does have at least some fans of his fashion—in Russia and China, his products seem to do well. 

Article continues below advertisement

Plein’s hands-off approach to controversies has seemingly paid off. The designer isn’t bogged down by article after article of his apologies for bad behavior or copying designs, he just keeps soldiering on. While it seems likely that today’s cancel culture would definitely tackle Plein enthusiastically, it’s possible that people just don’t know all of the bad things associated with his name and career. Again, this may be due to Plein’s casual approach to controversy. He lets people rage and burn themselves out, and then the news cycle moves on. On YouTube, content creator LOWLuxury tackles Plein’s reputation in detail – with a fair bit of snark. The picture his overall image paints is grim and disturbing. Yet clearly, Plein continues to rake in the dough. 

Article continues below advertisement

So how? It’s an intriguing question we couldn’t find a single satisfactory answer for. Perhaps the supermodels and music moguls he knows. Perhaps a robust Asian and European fandom. But with a lifestyle like he leads, he’s definitely doing well for himself. Only consumers of the Plein brand can decide if he deserves to be doing well or not, and so far they seem to think the answer to that question is “yes, he does.” 

Advertisement
More from CELEB Magazine

Latest FASHION News and Updates

    © Copyright 2022 CELEB Magazine. CELEB Magazine is a registered trademark. All Rights Reserved. People may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.