Designers Dish: A Conversation With Philipp Plein

Joe Schildhorn/BFAnyc/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images
FROM LEFT: Milana Korolev, Philipp Plein and Shanina Shaik

Here's to welcoming the German designer to L.A. with the opening of his new Rodeo Drive flagship

Philipp Plein may not be the most recognizable designer name on the West Coast, but that's about to change. The German designer, who's known for presenting extravagant runway shows for his namesake label, is bringing his cool rock 'n' roll-inspired designs to L.A. with the opening of his flagship on Rodeo Drive.

With fans already found in Rita Ora, Iggy Azalea, Grace Jones and Theophilus London (all who have performed during his Milan Fashion Week presentations), it was only a matter of time for Plein to bring his Swiss brand to Tinseltown.

While Plein was in town to open the doors to his 1,400-square-foot flagship, we got the chance to meet up with the handsome designer, who told Pret-a-Reporter about his signature Swarovski skull featured in the boutique (as well as all his other stores), as well as importance of light and his love for music in stores and on the runway.


Welcome to L.A. How are you enjoy the city, so far?

It's a really nice atmosphere; it's laidback. I like the landscaping, mountains and seaside. I also like the fact that you're close to the desert. I like the lifestyle of L.A. There's a lot of space to breathe.

Glad to hear! Congratulations on your L.A. flagship. What was your vision for the space?

We have different concepts for different locations, so for this is flagship on Rodeo Drive, we used luxury materials and it's all Italian. We are from Lugano, Italy, so we're from the Italian part of Switzerland with Italian architecture. The design was majorly done by myself. The logo of the brand is hexagonal, which you can see everywhere [in the store]. If you look at the marble on this wall — this wall is for denim — and it's probably the most expensive denim wall you've ever seen. It's all marble cut from Italy, shipped here. You will also see all the seating here, it's all shaped as hexagons. Also the folding table here in the middle is hexagonal shape. It's pretty much influenced by this shape. So, if we're talking about the material, we're using a lot of marble — matte, black and white, crocodile in matte. I like the matte surfaces in combination with the stainless steel. It became like a museum for clothes. I like to design and to design clothing but I also like to do some interior work. Just look at this marble — even in the changing room. It's a piece of luxury.

How about this chandelier above us?

That's the Italian Murano glass skull chandeliers, which were made for us. All of the stores have them. You see the skulls here. Murano is a small island close to Venice and this is where they blow the glass. Every little detail is done by mouth, not made by machine.

And of course, there's the Swarovski skull in front.

It's limited-edition; every store that I open has this $250,000 skull. It's all done by an artist from Switzerland. Every little stone is put by hand and there are more than 60,000 Swarovski crystals. That's a big job. It takes about three months.

Light seems to play an important part in the store, too.

I opened the first retail store in Monte Carlo, and from the beginning, it was all LED lights. Light is very important because it gives your product a certain shine. It's cold, but not too cold, because you can play so much with the light. I like to highlight the product.

So, right now, you have one skull for each of your 38 stores. How many more can we expect to see in the near future?

At the end of the year, we'll have 60 stores and end of next year, we'll be close to 100 stores. There's only one artist and he's limited in time to produce, so he's trying to get them done faster but he doesn't have a lot of people helping — it's been an issue, to be honest. We have two versions — the crystal ones, and in New York and Milan, we have a new limited-edition one with black Swarvoski. It's not as sparkling, but still really strong.

Based on your past runway shows, music seems pretty important to you.

Fashion is pretty much related to music. People who love fashion, especially the people who love Phillip Plein, love music. The band is the younger generation of luxury and the generation of today grew up with music and the elements around us. I think it's important to have all these things combine. The music that's going to be featured in the store will change with the collections. Basically, it's getting influenced by the theme. We have a DJ and try to have an internal radio channel, where we produce music for every store, every season. We have a SoundCloud, so you can hear the same music all over the world. The music is done by an Italian DJ — he's a friend of mine — his name is Michael Prado, and he's mixing the music for every season, matching with the theme of the collection and mood. It's a long playlist, considering that there will be people working in the store all day — you don't want to make them crazy by having them listen to the same song.

That's so cool. Now that you've had folks like Grace Jones and Rita Ora, what other musical acts would you love to have performing at your show?

Well, I'm still working on the mood of the new collection, so it'd have to be someone who fits into the theme. It's not always so easy to find the right match. First, I have to finish the collection, then we choose the artist.

Any artists you're really into at the moment?

I like the Killers, Rolling Stones, but I also like hip hop music. It just really influences my mood. There's music where I want to get up and dance, and then there's music where I want to chill and relax. It's the same with clothing. When you have your flats on, you feel more comfortable, and when you have your highest heels on, you feel like a lady and sexy.