The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those solely of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of Highsnobiety as a whole. In this piece, Eugene Rabkin, the founder of StyleZeitgeist, shares his experience at Philipp Plein’s NYFW show.
When it comes to fashion, Philipp Plein is today’s undisputed king of bad taste. His approach to design, if one may call it that, is “the more bling the better.” Sparkles on everything, giant Swarovski crystal skulls, Playboy bunnies; his universe is as tacky as it gets. That something like that can apparently generate $900 million in annual sales has always flabbergasted me.
Whatever formulae I have developed to make sense of this world clearly do not exist in that of Plein. And so I decided to go see a Philipp Plein show, not for any ironic reason – it seems that Plein and his audience are devoid of irony- and not even to hate-watch, but out of sheer curiosity of someone going on a safari. I wanted to see what it’s like to be in the world where pursuit and display of wealth are considered the highest goals of humanity.
What went down at the Plein extravaganza would make P.T. Barnum green with envy, though apparently compared to some of Plein’s previous shows it was a tame affair. Perhaps things proceeded more cautiously because of the Kanye West fiasco (Plein was reportedly hustled out of $900,000 by a former West associate who promised a West performance that never materialized). I’ll fast-forward to say that West was replaced by Lil Pump, whose claim to fame is “Gucci Gang,” perhaps the most idiotic track in the history of hip-hop.
The invite promised a three-course dinner with two runway shows in between – one for Plein’s main line, and another for his newish line Billionaire, aimed at older men with too much money and too little taste. We were all ushered into The Grill & The Pool, a restaurant in Midtown Manhattan. The invite asked for a black tie attire, but this being 21st Century New York, the male crowd was divided into those who showed up in a bow tie and those who did not. The younger men looked decidedly casual. My favorite of these was a guy who decided to offset the understatement of his black leather perfecto and black skinny jeans with slip-on shoes covered in silver glitter that I imagine Hugh Hefner would proudly wear with his Sunday best. Despite the dim lighting, he always kept his sunglasses on.
The women were glammed up to the nines, their silicone breasts spilling out of their sparkly decolletages, teetering on their too-high and too-narrow heels. There were enough Swarovski crystals and sparkles to light up Manhattan’s skyline and enough Botox for 20 seasons of the Real Housewives of Wherever. Plein’s own girlfriend towered over everyone in a red sequin dress with a thigh-high slit.
After some time at the open bar we were ushered into our seats, where salad awaited us. The Billionaire show begun – a casting of handsome older white men, who for the record were having fun, even though the person responsible for the timing of the model’s walkout screwed up and they tended to congregate in all their crocodile-coat-and-red-sequin-tuxedo glory in order to give each other time to pose for the photographers.
There was one black model, lest Plein be accused of racial insensitivity, and, inexplicably, one guy in a full head silver mask. The show ended with Plein taking a victory lap with none other than the actor Mickey Rourke, who also brought his lap dog for the occasion. Rourke, who, one rumor had it, got paid $50,000 for the appearance, did not seem too pleased. I wouldn’t be either if I had to be paraded in front of a bunch of strangers in a double-breasted crocodile coat, Musketeer high boots, and a tirol hat.
We had a brief interlude during which we gobbled up our entrees and then the main show began. I gazed in awe as each look overwhelmed the previous one in its degree of tackiness. The collection was a cross between Western and sporty, but Plein’s irresistible and competing desires to stick his name onto everything or cover each garment in something shiny made thinking about the cut of the fabric beside the point. It’s as if the clothes themselves were an afterthought, existing merely as background for decoration. At some point of the 67-look show, whose main merit was its diverse cast, I lost interest and ogled the audience. They were mostly busy taking selfies.
Finally it was all over, and Lil Pump jumped on stage bedecked in full Plein. At this point the crowd from the Grill room stormed the Pool room, where we were sitting, to take a picture of the rapper, and my companion and I had to fight our way through the silicone and the crystals to get to the bathroom. As the guy in front of us was going into one of the two bathrooms, he was joined, against his will, by the actor Michael K. Williams, who most famously played Omar Little on The Wire.
By the time we got back to the Grill room, Lil Pump had left. Instead, on the elevated stage people in evening attire were bumping and grinding. We stared at the pandemonium, and I imagined that this is the kind of stuff Hunter S. Thompson must have envisioned while writing Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas on acid. My companion felt like she’d start vomiting Swarovski crystals, so we decided to make our exit.
As we were getting our coats, we witnessed an attractive young woman in a blue jumpsuit being practically carried out by two guards as she kicked and screamed. She was eventually allowed to get her coat before being kicked out. “Here comes the walk of shame,” one of the guards chuckled. It seemed like a fitting end.