MILAN, Italy — The phenomenon that is Philipp Plein is one of the few fashion acts with the power to coax the world's top editors to a Milanese arena at 9pm on a rainy Saturday night. It's a phenomenon that, not unlike Olivier Rousteing's Balmain, transcends the fashion industry bubble and speaks directly to a public unconcerned with the haughty and the highbrow.
Plein's story, though cloudy, is one of meteoric success. He is opening stores left, right and centre; his clothes grace the pages of the glossies from POP to Vogue Paris (he advertises heavily); his crowd-pleasing spectacles draw huge audiences who revel late into the evening at his post-show parties.
Tonight’s circus, his second this year, saw Plein construct a Hedi Slimane-inspired hall of mirrors framed with streaming LED lights that oddly obscured both the brief performance of controversial rapper Chris Brown (an odd choice for a runway show claiming to promote female empowerment) and the models themselves. Their entrance, on the back of three flaming 16-wheel trucks, conjured up strange images of human trafficking, but Plein’s universe leans more towards another kind of trade in flesh: exotic dancers or girls turning tricks on a street corner, perhaps.
In the near darkness, the flash of glitzy crystal bodices was the only sign of life before Julia Nobis hit the ground running in a sliced-up leather catsuit, the first in a slew of looks referencing superheroes like Cat Woman and Wonder Woman. Later, Swarovski-studded tracksuits, frosty gold-beaded harness gowns and swathes of clingy leather and lace continued Plein’s souped-up, sexy lineup, though he lent a token streetwear touch to most looks by way of wool beanies, sneakers clustered with rhinestones and the occasional airbrushed skateboard.
Picked apart, the outerwear was Plein’s strongpoint here; it played to his hip-hop sensibilities rather than a red carpet pipe-dream. Indeed, his plaited leather bomber or fox-lined parka channeled his #PLEINHERO hashtag better than any brash ballgown.