Style & Fashion

New York Fashion Week

New York Fashion Week reviews: Philipp Plein

The Daily Beast

February 14, 2017

Not that the rumor that fashion folk are a bunch of shameless freeloaders or anything is, ahem, true, but the mood of the assembled at Philippe Plein’s grand New York Fashion Week show at the New York Public Library on Monday night definitely perked up when Plein, in a warm and open-hearted speech before the show began, revealed that he had paid for an open bar.

“The drinks are on me,” Plein said. Short of promising everyone that they were going home with one of his full-length silver puffer jackets, the handsome German designer couldn’t have come up with a more winning sentence. And after the show he stayed true to his word with the whole library converted to a party zone, with multiple bars, dodge ’em cars, hot dog and cotton candy stands, DJs, and a disco.

Plein’s show was a long time starting: a full heroic hour late, but the music and people-watching was so damn good nobody was antsy. The surroundings—the atrium and halls of the NYPL—were dramatically lit with mesh fences with fluorescent tubing, with benches running along its ornate flanks, and guests including Madonna (in a fabulous red and black padded coat and dark glasses), Kylie Jenner, her boyfriend Tyga, Nas (who performed “If I Ruled the World”), Tiffany Trump, and a cast of Fashion Week hundreds decked in finery, including a man in a full length blue, glittering robe… and a very rich-looking older woman who approached this reporter to help her post a picture of her with fellow attendees Paris Hilton and Nicky Rothschild to Instagram.

Names were misspelt, it was a riot of double spaces, and what should she hashtag, she asked? The Daily Beast did its best to help, until the woman joyously posted the picture and was hustled out of her seat. No matter: She giggled, and disappeared behind a pillar where more intrigues may have awaited. It was that kind of evening.

It was also an evening that celebrated New York. “Let’s make NYFW Great Again” read the legend on the evening’s program, with the added question—voiced by the designer himself in his witty speech—“Who the fuck is Philipp Plein?”

“Well, that’s me,” the designer said to us all. It was Plein’s first show in New York City, after years of showing in Milan, and so he was making an entrance. “I’m a dreamer,” he said. “A dream chaser. I believe in my dreams until they come true. This is a dream and I can say this dream came true.”

He said he knew he was defying convention by making his presence known before the show. Not only that: He was saying something. Typically a designer pops their head out from behind a screen and takes a bow, and skedaddles backstage.

But Plein was doing it his way. “Make this night epic,” he ordered us. He thanked people for coming, and then said the evening was “all about having fun.”

He lived up to his intention. Not every designer can command the services of The Kills to perform music for the runway, as a troupe of models—male and female—appeared in a sequence of black bomber jackets, and tight black pants, or fitted skirts.

Some carried the banner legend of Plein himself (very Moschino), some “New York,” and some with the legend “Neighborhood Kings.” The male models included Jeremy Weeks, the so-called “Hot Felon,” Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz, and rappers Young Thug, Fetty Wap, and a smiling Desiigner.

There were men’s gray jogging trousers with artful zips in odd places, zip-up tops that went so high on the neck they looked like a Zorro-ish disguise, and some wore kerchiefs to more directly emulate the look itself. There were jackets with luxe fur sleeves, and short dresses, leotards, and short shorts with thigh-high boots. There were sleek, long puffer jackets in black and silver, and leggings with slithering silver studs. One piece featured a glittering Statue of Liberty. Another: “I Love New York.”

A black crop T-shirt with light blue jeans could have been worn by Jennie Garth in 90210 (the first version), while a short brown bomber jacket came with a luxe champagne ballgown with glittering studs on its hem. If the essence of the collection was street, it came with the knowledge that its wearers would be leaving the street pretty sharpish to go to a party like the one at the NYPL.

Plein’s politics were plain to see: This collection was a heartfelt celebration of not just America, but New York, and all it stands for. The back of his program listed: Brooklyn Bronx, Staten Island, Queens, “From the Battery to the Top of Manhattan, Asian, Middle-Eastern and Latin, Black, White, New York, You Make It Happen.”

The brilliant, thunderous rap music hammered a similar point home: This was a celebratory defiance of President Trump—a hailing of difference and the best qualities of urban melting pots.

Confusion descended after the end of the show, which didn’t really end. Suddenly models were mixing with the people who were just watching them. “Anyone want a drink?” my neighbor said, at which point fashion genetics kicked in, and everyone zoomed to the nearest free bar, like pigs in a forest suddenly remembering they are there to find truffles.

Plein must have the magic touch, because the fashion folk actually ate the sliders being proffered by waiters. There were neon signs stuck to rigged-up fences proclaiming “nude” and “lap dancing.” Mostly, people took their cocktails and vodka sodas and danced to Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” and “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough.” It was a playlist straight from Plein’s determined desire for everyone to let go, and enjoy themselves: an insistence on pleasure as its own resistance.

Leaving behind the merriment before glass carriages became pumpkins as they can do, it was clear the fun was not only happening inside the library. This reporter spied the Naked Cowboy on the steps, strumming away to the delight of passersby, the NYPL itself lit with rippling stars and stripes. Plein had done as he intended, and laid a cheering claim to the city.

Any NYPL readers on Tuesday morning finding a slice of lime with their Chaucer will at least know from whence it came.