Anyone who has indulged themselves in the masochistic act of scrolling through Philipp Plein’s Instagram feed will know that this is a guy in love with his fleet of Ferraris. At least, that was the case until the company fired off a legal letter and asked him to back the hell down from using their luxury cars as props. The pair have been going at it ever since, but the past seven days has seen the dispute wind up in sensitive territory.
The beef goes back to July 2019, when Plein — a man who, in a mind-curdling alternate universe far, far away, is renowned for his minimalist approach and penchant for refined aesthetics — uploaded a post featuring a pair of his $800 PHANTOM KICK$ perched atop the roof of a gaudy green Ferrari 812 Superfast. Understandably, Ferrari didn’t take too kindly to the fact its famous word mark and (legally-protected) prancing horse logo was bang slap in the middle of the photo, and in a letter awash with tea sip-worthy legalese, claimed that Plein’s images aligned Ferrari “with a lifestyle [that is] totally inconsistent with [its] brand perception.” It then went on to specifically reference “performers making sexual innuendos and using Ferrari’s cars as props in a manner which is per se distasteful.”
Ferrari asked that the German remove the offending content — an act which he not only refused, but literally staged a protest against by, in his own words, “shutting down [New York City.]” An interesting footnote to the story is that, in true Plein-ian style, he claimed 50 Cent showed up to support the cause, only for the rapper’s team to deny it, confirming he happened to be in the area having food at the same time but “was not aware of any protest.”
Coming back to the now, in a post last Friday, Plein alleged that Ferrari had been pursuing $2 million from him, but that his team had negotiated the sum down to $200,000. Rather than paying Ferrari the money, he instead offered that if the company were to drop the request entirely, he would donate the cash to a charitable cause. “In this particular moment full of tragic events all over the world I feel completely inappropriate to fight over such irrelevant matters,” he wrote. “Neither [Ferrari] nor me REALLY need those [sic] money. Instead of continuing this useless litigation I asked my lawyer to settle the fight in order to make a contribution of [$200,000]” to a fund for George Floyd’s daughter, Gianna, or Black Lives Matter.”
A second post followed yesterday where Plein stated that Ferrari had acknowledged but refused his offer (an unsurprising development, given how long this dispute has been rambling on for, not to mention the fact Ferrari would give up its ability to appeal any further decisions should they agree to the request), but that he himself had still donated the sum of $22,000 to the Official Gianni Floyd Fund. “Ferrari wrote back and confirmed availability to an amicable solution of the dispute but, unfortunately, refused my offer of a settlement in the form of a donation funded by me to one or more #BlackLivesMatter and #georgefloyd organizations,” read the post. So there you have it, Plein would donate $200,000 if Ferrari dropped the case, but $22,000 if they didn’t.
In a letter sent to Ferrari by Plein’s legal team, it was claimed that his actions were in support of the black community and not to promote himself or the brand (he also states he was the first designer to feature all black models at Milan Fashion Week back in 2013, an assertion that Dsquared2 may dispute). They were also keen to stress Plein’s support for “the most important black talents such as 50 cent [sic], Snoop Dog [sic], Naomi [Campbell], Tyga and many more.” Said support would seemingly stop at being able to stylize their names properly.
A few months back, Plein’s label made headlines at Milan Fashion Week 2020 for all the wrong reasons after showcasing a tribute to the recently deceased Kobe Bryant — complete with a bedazzled helicopter — that was widely regarded as insensitive. In this instance, regardless of Plein’s intention to do right by donating money to the cause (although, if you can, why not just give the money rather than making it conditional?), there’s something tasteless about a multi-millionaire conflating issues such as racial violence with their own legal troubles, leveraging them as an incentive to “buy off” an adversary. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised, however, as tasteless is what Philipp Plein does best.