Tom takes me into his bedroom and whips it out. It is disgusting. Truly.
“Remember this?” he says, gesturing toward a chrome studded rucksack made of blue leather — maybe snake skin, maybe ostrich, or any other obscure animal they could slaughter. Of course I remember the Philipp Plein bag. It was rather painful at the time… He got the show, and I didn’t.
This rucksack is a symbol of his infinitely better looks. How could I forget?
Tom used to walk Philipp Plein during Milan Fashion Week, back in the early days of our modelling careers. An aquarium’s worth of liquidity and a small ocean’s worth of booze went into those shows. Over the years I saw Snoop Lion perform in an MMA cage, Theophilus London jet ski down an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and Lil Wayne storm off in anger. They were gaudy, rich, excessive, and likely the most memorable parties I will ever attend.
We didn’t care much for Plein’s clothes at the time, but I have since been haunted by them. They are what bay leaves are to a Spag Bol: unnecessary and tasteless. Cobbled together with skull prints, gaudy patterns, excessive denim, horrible cuts, multitudes of exotic animal skin, chrome, studs, chubby chains, high-tops, ripped things, and tacky belts, Plein’s clothes seem alien. But it’s more the demographic that consumes the clothing that I find most foreign.
From a distance, Plein's followers seem to dream of owning a second-hand Gallardo, having multiple girlfriends with fake tits, and building a drop-shipping empire while sipping cranberry-vodkas by an infinity pool until their livers fail or they wind up in court under some sexual-assault allegation. It seems like a tasteless fiction to witness people with wet eyeballs, a healthy amount of firing synapses, and expanding-contracting lungs buy into such vapidity.
That said, Plein himself does fit the bill. Luke Leitch of Vogue has called him the Donald Trump of fashion. Plein recently revealed “Chateau Falconview” — his 3.2 acre Bel-Aire mansion — complete with “200 ‘costume vases,’ hand-painted wallpaper printed with lyrics from Mozart's opera The Magic Flute, leopard print ceilings, ‘fairytale jungle’ wallpaper, a 24k gold gaming arcade, marble gladiator statues, a Beauty and the Beast inspired staircase, crest embossed door handles, a diamond-shaped bathtub that looks like the Tesla Cybertruck fucked a spa, and a LOT of Swarovski chandeliers,” according to HIGHSNOBIETY.
This exposé comes amid rumours of a very on-brand collaboration with OnlyFans — which makes sense, seeing as porn and his aesthetic are equally quaint. Suitably, Plein also just released his “No Limit$” fragrance, which “smells like success” according to one fan I spoke with. All in all, he is the global titan of tacky fashion.
So I perused Instagram the other day to see what’s going down in Plein’s world and stumbled upon the hashtag #Pleined. In essence, it’s just an aggregate of people posing in their Plein garms as bad taste drips off them like stinking, molten camembert. But the phrase itself sounds like some 11-year-old brat who’s jacked up on pick’n’mix shouting sick insults in your face, like “owned,” “ripped,” or “destroyed.” You just got Pleined, bro.
Who gets Pleined? Who is the Pleiner? Who, exactly, Pleins?
Even through pictures on Instagram, his aesthetic haunts me. Phillipp Plein is like “The Game.” The aim of The Game is to forget The Game; when you remember The Game, you are simultaneously back in The Game and have already lost. (You can thank me later.)
So, I’m out on the town later that night, living my (normal) best life, and I see some disastrous Pleiner wearing a Phillipp Plein tee and I’m forced to re-remember that such shit clothing actually exists. Somewhere, someone designed this shirt, someone else made it, then another person consciously decided to spend hard-earned currency to acquire it. That happened, and continues to happen, for reasons entirely baffling to me.
I feel like Sisyphus, trying to push an agenda of reasonable stylistic judgement up the fucking mountain.
When I think back to my heady days of modelling fashion week and moseying about the (frankly awesome) Philipp Plein parties, I get to thinking that maybe my criticism is a bit harsh. Maybe there is a time and a place for him and his garms. A place not far off from a 3am puking on the outskirts of Milan with a meatball marinara dribbling down your shoulder, sure, but a place nonetheless.
In an interview with Financial Times, Plein says in the early days, he worked out his key to success: “I needed to sell things that were different, not comparable, to the rest of the market.” Meaning, Plein will always Plein against the grain. He will Plein the field the wrong way. And he will almost always come out with a bumper yield. Simply put, Philipp Plein is anti-fashion.
Five years ago, when Plein #Pleined me in front of all his Pleiners and didn’t book me for his show, perhaps that was the day that my own anti-Plein seed was sown? Maybe all I’ve amounted to since is just an excessive reaction to gaudy clothing, steeped in aesthetic inferiority and ego? Sadly for me, writing this article, this... this, poetry of aesthetic therapy... it will only spawn more diamanté encrusted clothing. My futile resistance to tastelessness only proliferates the target.