In the process of growing his brand, German designer Philipp Plein has tended to create spectacles that attract attention and buzz (See: campaigns starring Lindsay Lohan, Lea T, and Terry Richardson; Grace Jones performing at his fall show.)--which is exactly what he did at his latest runway show at "Teatro Philipp Plein" in what appeared to be a very clubby section of Milan.
Attempting to weave through a sea of dressed-up Italian bodies, I felt more like I was in line to get into a nightclub than a fashion show, which was fitting since the show started at 9:30pm (and didn't actually start until an hour later).
Things finally got started around 10:30 with an energetic, booty-shaking performance by Iggy Azalea. And then came the equally provocative clothes, set to Azealia Banks's "212." Just about every look featured something that shined or sparkled, whether it was a metallic leather moto-jacket, a sequined romper, or Swarovski crystal-trimmed dress.
Plein definitely embraced the athletic trend with varsity jackets and pseudo-sweatpants--usually metallic ones. But on the more formal end, there were plenty of leg-baring cocktail dresses with sexy sheer panels and cut outs; as well as a few floor-length evening gowns. One otherwise wedding-like dress made of white lace had the phrase "Fuck You You Fucking Fuck," emblazoned on the chest.
The real story, however, was the models, all of whom were black--Alek Wek opened the show, while Liya Kebede closed it.
It was a very timely statement, as the fashion industry's calls to end runway racism have been making headlines everywhere from this site to CNN in recent weeks, thanks in large part to Bethann Hardison and the Diversity Coalition. Of his decision to use black models, Plein told us it was all in line with the overarching message of his brand.
"My message is about breaking down barriers and breaking the rules," Plein explained over email after the show. "Doing the unexpected and shaking people from their complacence, forcing people to face the future where old prejudices have no place. For example, the public expects to see pallid girls in high heels walking my show and I give them a fleet of black beauties in flats! Not to mention the opening act featuring one of the hottest rappers on the horizon, Iggy Azalea, who also happens to be white in a black dominated hip hop world.”
It would be easy to pass this off as just another instance of Plein trying to attract attention, but he certainly has a point, and his rule-breaking philosophy will likely continue to get him further than his clothes would on their own.