Fashion designer Philipp Plein is a horny straight guy, and he loves it. Even more surprising, I love it, too. I was surprised by how self-aware the 38-year-old German was. He slipped into the fashion world through the side door after studying law and launching a line of super high-end dog beds. Yes, dog beds. That venture organically led Plein to design furniture, small leather goods and eventually clothing. He has a "go big or go home" mentality and believes it costs just as much to do an amazing fashion show as it does to do a mediocre one. His runway shows have included roller coasters, jet skis and a Courtney Love performance, all of which have created quite a splash in the fashion world and given him a reputation as a flashy, over-the-top attention grabber. But in the end, besides creating a global fashion empire, Philipp Plein just wants to have fun. And sex. He wants to have lots of sex.
Mickey Boardman: Did you have a crush on any celebrities when you were a kid?
Philipp Plein: Cindy Crawford and Elizabeth Hurley.
How important do you think sex is in terms of business? Is it an important part of the Philipp Plein brand?
Absolutely. I think that sex, being sexy and feeling attractive is part of the whole industry. This is what the industry is about. Look at women's high heels. When a woman wears them, she looks different. She talks different. She walks different. Her body language is completely different. She has a completely different silhouette. Her complete body language changes when she has the high heels on. You can see how fashion can change the mood of a person. When a woman has her flats on, or her sneakers, she walks different, she talks different, and it's the same for a man. If a man wears his sneakers and his tracksuit, he's a completely different person than when he wears his bowtie and his tuxedo. You also think different, and you behave different.
Being sexy, feeling sexy and feeling attractive; these are what the industry makes their money from. That's why we're selling dresses, that's why we're selling clothes — because people want to be beautiful. People want to show what they have or want to hide what they don't have. That's the game. That's what it's all about. It's not only the dress that makes you feel and look sexy, it's also the person and the way you wear it that makes the dress look sexy. You can see it.
What do you wear when you want to feel sexy?
For me to feel sexy, I have to be comfortable, and to feel comfortable with myself and the way I look. That makes me feel positively super sexy. I wear a black T-shirt — it's my uniform. I also like a leather jacket, T-shirt and pants: I'm a simple guy. You know, it's like when you cook, and you are cooking the most amazing dishes every night; at a certain point, you want to just eat a piece of bread with butter.
So you're making the most amazing, sexy outfits, and that's why you just want to wear a black T-shirt and jeans?
You know, fashion is a celebration. The way you wear it, the way you put things together, the way you dress — it's a celebration. You have to appreciate it.
And do you think that perspective -- looking at fashion as a celebration and a way to make you sexy -- sets your brand apart from other brands?
No, I don't think that there is a difference between my brand and other brands. I think that everybody has the same approach. In this industry, everybody wants to make people look comfortable, and feel comfortable and sexy, so that they will buy their clothes. In this industry, everybody first of all wants to make money, to sell. This is the truth, OK? And apart from this, I think that this is not enough to convince the client these days. I think that a brand, in order to be successful, has to have a strong DNA and a strong position in the market, which the client, in the end, appreciates, and they identify themselves with, because people are [buying] more clothes. They buy a brand, they buy a dream, they buy emotion.
Do you find one group of women from one particular place the sexiest? If I say, "Think of sexy women," and you close your eyes, I'm visualizing a type of woman that I think is your type. Maybe I'm wrong…
This is really hard... I like all women, that's my problem. I cannot tell you that I like Brazilian [women] better than Russian [women], and German or Swiss or Italian [women]; I mean, they're all amazing.
And do the ones you like have anything in common?
I love ALL the women, believe me! There is no exception.
Philipp Plein Fall/Winter 2015 women's fashion show atmosphere
Philipp Plein Spring/Summer 2015 fashion show atmosphere
I love it, I love it, I love it. Why is America important to your brand?
Because America is still one of the biggest economies in the world, and America has global exposure. We are all Americanized, even the people outside of America. And maybe the Americans don't even realize it, because they grew up inside the country, but America has a huge influence on the world and on the consumers outside America. I can tell you, because I was born and raised in Germany and we were listening to American music. We were watching American television shows and movies. We were drinking Coca-Cola. We were eating McDonald's. If you dress the biggest celebrity in Italy, outside of Italy, the celebrity has no importance. But if you dress an American celebrity like, say, Kim Kardashian, all the world will know about it. All the world will see it. And this global exposure helps to sell all over the world.
But to be fair, for sure, America is one of the toughest markets. It's a market where everything already exists; it's a market that's saturated. I have to admit -- sometimes it seems to me that the American dream is over, or not necessarily over, but harder to achieve. Two generations ago, Americans had the cars, the refrigerators, color TVs. This is what made so many immigrants come over. Everybody in America is coming from another background. You have people from Italy, people from Germany, people from Ireland, people from all over the place. And they all came because of the American dream. Now, the American dream, in a certain way, has expired. You know, you could have come over to America, opened up a business and become very successful and very rich because there was a demand for it in the country. The country was developing, growing -- everything was needed. But now, when you look at the market, everything is already there.
So at the moment, the real dream is coming out of China, I would say. If my son were old enough to start a business -- if he said, "Dad, I want to take over the world. Where would it be best for me to go and build an empire?" I would say, "Go to Asia, because there's a huge potential now, for young people like you, to make something of nothing." They need restaurants. They need nightclubs. They need fashion stores. They need everything, because they don't have it. And they are ready and hungry to consume. So this is a hungry market, where people are willing and happy and looking for something new and different to purchase. If I go to America today and try to sell them a T-shirt, it's like trying to sell you a plate of spaghetti after you've had your three-course menu at Cipriani. You've just come out of the restaurant, and then you find me, on the street, offering you a beautiful plate of pasta with truffles, the best pasta ever, but you would say, "Hey dude, thank you so much, it looks amazing, but I just had a three-course menu. I'm full!" So this is the problem we have at the moment in New York. We are entering a market where people already have enough jeans, enough jackets, enough
T-shirts, enough shoes, enough everything. They don't need anything anymore. It's a spoiled customer, it's a spoiled market. In this way, we took a lot of time to prepare ourselves until we were ready to do this investment, to go into this market. We did our homework. The product is strong, the brand is strong, the brand awareness in Europe is strong, and now our aim is to take the American market. We are so successful in other markets, there's no reason that we wouldn't sell successfully in America, but it is tougher. It's not easy.
Are you ever satisfied, or do you always want more in terms of your brand?
I am never satisfied. I mean, look -- there's a rule written over the dinner table in our company: Never get comfortable. Because, you know, we are like lions. If you ever see a lion after he eats, he goes to sleep after. You get so full that you get tired, and you want to rest. But when he's hungry, he's going to be the one who's the fastest, the strongest and the most successful -- only if he's hungry. When you're not hungry anymore, you become slow. This is why it's important to stay always hungry. And, you know, that's a motivation, but it's also a philosophy. It depends what you expect from yourself and what you expect from others. I have a vision: I want to build a brand and build it in an industry that I call "the old economy," and it's really difficult nowadays to do so. You can never be satisfied. You can be happy, but you should never be satisfied. Because I think you can always achieve more. Satisfaction, for me, is a sign of resignation.
Tell me a little bit more about Billionaire Couture, the luxury menswear brand that you recently bought.
That's a super great experience for me, and it's still an ongoing process. I believe that the experiences will help me in the future to build other brands. When you have your first child, you're all excited and you want more, and then when you have your second child, you're more relaxed because you know more. I already know what to do, and I can be a better father because I know what's happening. I know what the baby needs when he cries; I know how to handle the situation. You become more confident. So it's the same situation here. This is, I think, very exciting. And you know, I like to create things, I like to do things, and for me the biggest luxury -- my biggest definition of luxury -- is to create things, to make things [become] real. And I have a vision for this brand that is so strong, so different.
OK, now if a genie came along and said you can either be the most successful fashion mogul of all time but never have sex again or you can have the power to have sex with any woman in the world but you'll have no success in business, which would you choose?
Sex with women.
I think that's very honest.
I need to fuck around to enjoy life. People are made for each other; this is in our genes. It's in our nature. We all need love, and not only love, we also need sex. It's inside of us; that's a part of our nature! Look at the lion — the lion can have sex at all times of the day.
Does it have sex after it eats, or is it then too lazy for sex? I wonder.