a woman in a gold dress
A woman wearing a black top and gold sparkly skirt with a slit in it

Edeline Lee embraces femininity and female empowerment through her clothes. Photo by Nick Thompson.

As Fashion Weeks comes to a close, we’re celebrating designers who are paving the way for a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry. Here, Edeline Lee tells us why sustainability makes such a difference to the quality of her brand,

LUX: You’ve mentioned before that you design with the “Future Lady” in mind. What does that mean exactly?
Edeline Lee: The Future Lady is an idea that I made up to encompass the woman that I am designing for.  Female identity is in flux in our generation.  Modern women live hectic, collaged lives.  We can’t automatically subscribe to the identities that have been laid out for us historically.  Women now are more beautiful, more powerful, more free, stronger, more aware, more capable than any other time in history.  Yet, we still have a way to go before we fulfil our true potential.  How does the Future Lady dress?  What is it to dress with true power, grace, beauty and dignity in today’s world?

My overarching concept has always been a conversation about this journey as a woman with the women who wear my clothes.  It’s easy to be fooled into thinking that fashion is all about more and more: younger, thinner, cheaper, taller, louder, sexier.

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I’ve spent a lot of time dressing with women in changing rooms.  My experience is that women are well aware; they are not blind fools.  They can feel the difference when something is made with quality and meaning, fits well, and is designed with a soul, to lift the best out of you.  Once they experience what it feels like to put it on, they don’t need to be convinced to buy.

LUX: How did your time at Central Saint Martins impact your approach to design?
Edeline Lee: My time at Central Saint Martins taught me that you can design a collection from anything. At the beginning of every season, I try to connect back to the source.  What do I find interesting, meaningful and beautiful around me?  What makes me smile or makes me curious?  It’s important that the source is pure, because then others will respond to it too.

A woman standing in a black dress underneath the skull of a bull

Edeline Lee. Photo by Mars Washington

LUX: Was there a particular turning point when you felt you’d discovered your distinct design language?
Edeline Lee: Femininity is a huge part of my design language. The problem I’m always trying to solve is: how does a woman dress with power and authority, whilst still being feminine? The two should not be mutually exclusive.

I design to help women express their higher purpose, but I also make clothes that resist wrinkling so that women can actually function at a high level in the clothes.  The tricky thing is to strike the perfect balance between something that is flattering and appropriate, but just special enough to draw out what is individual and special in the woman wearing it. Thinking women deserve clothes that think.

LUX: Are there any designers or perhaps, design movements that have influenced your practice?
Edeline Lee: I’ve been very much influenced by the practice of the Weiner Werkstatte with their philosophy of the Gesamtkunstwerk or “total work of art”.  I love the idea that every element in an environment can be harmonised and unified whether it be art, decorative arts or design.  They believed that it was better to work 10 days on one product than to manufacture 10 products in one day.

A woman wearing a gold sparkly dress with a white collar

Edeline Lee Autumn Winter 2022. Photo by Nick Thompson.

LUX: How do you think the brand has evolved since its inception?
Edeline Lee: The label really became a “brand” when I learned how to define and project my purpose out into the world. If you know what your purpose is, the rest becomes so much easier.

LUX: Edeline Lee has been celebrated for its sustainable approach to luxury fashion. What’s your personal approach to sustainability? And do you think attitudes are changing in the fashion industry?
Edeline Lee: It startled and worried me when we were named in the top 4 sustainable brands at London Fashion Week by Good On You. It takes a lot of research and commitment to try to source and work sustainably and ethically, and we’ve been doing our best. Yet, I know that we still have such a long way to go.

My personal approach is that we must all take responsibility for our actions. Just as we producers need to take responsibility for the choices that we make, it’s important for customers to be empowered by their choices, and realise their power to purchase sustainably as well.

LUX: There has been much discussion around the unsustainability of fashion week. What are your thoughts?
Edeline Lee: I don’t think that it is necessary for everyone to relentlessly travel around the world, all the time. In that sense, the relentless churn of global fashion weeks isn’t sustainable. If anything, Covid 19 has taught us that we could all probably take a breather and be more selective in our choices.

a clothing stand with chairs and a table

Edeline Lee retail space at Harrods, opened in 2022

LUX: You’re also an advocate of community-made fashion. How does that work in practice? And why is it important?
Edeline Lee: We dye our fabrics in Yorkshire, and design, cut, sew and finish all of our pieces in London – not because good craftsman don’t exist elsewhere in the world, but because of quality control. It means that I’m always the final eye cast over each piece before it ships. It means that I know personally each hand that touches the clothes, I truly believe that the love and care that is put into the making of a garment lends it a soul.  It is visible to me when I look at a dress.

Read more: All-access rundown of Ozwald Boateng’s return to London Fashion Week

When your mother gives you a dress that she wore in her youth, aren’t you able to see or feel the soul in that garment?  It is something like that.  A dress is more beautiful when it is made with love, and that humanity in it becomes more powerful if every part of the dress is made within a community, by a team.

LUX: What are your goals for your company this year, and in the longer term?
Edeline Lee: We’ve just opened our first branded retail space inside of Harrods – so I am enjoying the process of developing and improving that. Please visit and take a look!

Find out more: edelinelee.com

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Reading time: 5 min
man listening to music with headphones
man listening to music with headphones

Warwick Acoustics’ flagship headphone system, the APERIO, promises the ultimate listening experience. Image courtesy of Warwick Acoustics

British company Warwick Acoustics has developed a reputation for innovating and producing innovative audio technology. Their flagship headphone system, the APERIO, takes both sound quality and product design to the next level with a 24 karat gold hand-finished limited edition. Here, LUX discovers how the ultimate listening experience is achieved

Numerous studies have shown that listening to music can positively impact your mood, well-being, sleep quality and cognitive ability, reduce stress, and even ease physical pain, but is there such thing as a perfect listening experience?

‘Sound is definitely a subjective experience and what is considered ‘perfect’ for one person may not be for another,’ says Martin Roberts Director of the Headphone Business Unit at UK-based audio technology company Warwick Acoustics Ltd., whose products are designed to achieve an exceptionally high level of sound clarity. Their recently unveiled flagship headphone system, the APERIO (named after the Latin word meaning to uncover or reveal), follows the company’s Sonoma Model One (M1) electrostatic headphone system, and is the result of three years of extensive sound exploration and technical development carried out in their Warwickshire workshops.

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‘Simply put: the APERIO is designed to reproduce audio content as pristinely and accurately as possible – revealing the details and complexities in the original recording without colouration or alteration,’ explains Roberts. A review in Hi-Fi News claims that the system possesses the ability ‘to deliver rare insights into your music.’ Whilst this level of sound quality is naturally more geared towards professionals in the music industry, the company hopes the product will also appeal to music-loving high-net-worth individuals as a high-functioning collectible item.

design workshop

Each APERIO is assembled by hand in the company’s Warwickshire workshops. Image courtesy of Warwick Acoustics

In terms of design, the company believes in American architect Louis Henry Sullivan’s ethos that ‘form follows function’, and aspire to create products that have a timeless appeal.

Read more: Why it’s important for banks to incentivise sustainability

The standard version of the APERIO, for example, is understated in sleek black with soft sheepskin leather and stylish detailing such as the curved metal patterning of the headphone grilles, which visually evokes undulating sound waves.

headphones

The APERIO standard version. Image courtesy of Warwick Acoustics.

The limited-edition Gold APERIO is more flashy, crafted from 24 karat gold (including the headphone grilles, hardware and Amplifier front panel) in England’s historic jewellery quarter in Birmingham. Limited to 100 units globally, the system is now available to buy in the UK exclusively from Harrods in Knightsbridge, London.

It’s not just the design that has been upgraded, however, the Gold system also utilises the highest grade Balanced-Drive HPEL Transducer (the component that determines the quality of sound reproduction) innovated by Warwick Acoustics to guarantee outstanding performance. That level of quality doesn’t come cheaply though; the Gold model retails at a cool £30,000/US$35,000 whilst the standard version is priced at £20,000/US$24,000.

gold headphones

The Gold Aperio is limited to 100 units, available in the UK exclusively at Harrods, London. Image courtesy of Warwick Acoustics.

But how exactly is audio performance or sound quality measured? Each APERIO undergoes rigorous testing, including at least three human listening tests, before the product is released from the company’s Warwickshire facility. ‘The APERIO is about listening to music as if you were there,’ says Roberts. ‘I remember when I visited a very famous recording studio in Los Angeles and a mastering engineer listened to a remastered recording by the great Frank Sinatra… He listened intently to the same track several times then just sat back and said, “Wow.”  When I asked him how his experience was he said, “Amazing, I have literally listened to that Sinatra track a thousand times and this is the first time I have ever heard him smacking his lips in the pauses between verses of the song…Simply astonishing detail”.’

Read more: Artist Yayoi Kusama’s designs for Veuve Clicquot

sound testing

Warwick Acoustics’ anechoic chamber where the headphones are tested. Image courtesy of Warwick Acoustics.

Attention to detail is at the heart of Warwick Acoustics’ engineering philosophy. The whole system is designed to work harmoniously together, rather than piecing together disparate components and technologies. In many ways, it’s a similar process to the development of a supercar or ultra-high-performance watch, and ultimately, that’s what you’re paying for: the experience. Listening to music is, after all, a process of immersion, of gradually getting closer to the sound, of being slowly transported into another place, self, or way of being.

For more information visit: warwickacoustics.com/headphones, or contact [email protected]

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Reading time: 4 min
Interiors of smart business centre
Smart hotel lobby area

Visitors to The Garrison Club at Chelsea Barracks are greeted by the art-deco inspired lobby

Chelsea Barracks in Belgravia is one of the most spectacular luxury developments in the world. And at its heart is the semi-secret Garrison Club, a discreet private space where an all-star team of concierges look after their residents every need, as Anna Tyzack discovers

It’s a typical Belgravia street scene – majestic townhouses, gleaming black railings, sausage dogs, cyclists and shoppers. Yet behind the pale stone buildings of Chelsea Barracks is a secret organisation, working 24/7 to ensure the residents of London’s newest neighbourhood want for nothing. “Anything’s possible,” explains André Bremermann, general manager of Chelsea Barracks. “From private jets to movie screenings, from business meetings to introductions to prep schools – we have the relationships in place to make these things happen.”

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The Garrison Club is not dissimilar to the Society of the Crossed Keys in Wes Anderson’s 2014 film The Grand Budapest Hotel – it’s formed of leading concierge staff from five-star hotels, as well as prime developments such as One Hyde Park and 199 Knightsbridge. Never before has a service on this scale been available to an entire community – every resident in the 5-hectare Chelsea Barracks development is automatically a member. “What we’re doing here is unique,” Bremermann says. “Chelsea Barracks is not a gated community, it’s a new and exciting part of Belgravia – yet residents can enjoy the security and services of a five-star hotel.”

Luxurious townhouses

The Chelsea Barracks townhouses

An average Belgravia townhouse, according to luxury staffing agency, Greycoat Lumleys, has a staff of five or six; residents in 8 Whistler Square, which is just one building within Chelsea Barracks, have access to a team of more than 38 people. This is what makes The Garrison Club so ground-breaking, says Bremermann: residents enjoy the same freedom and anonymity as any Londoner yet with a powerful support network at their fingertips. “They can contact us via the Chelsea Barracks Residents app or on the phone,” he explains. “It’s the modern equivalent of bygone Belgravia when households had footmen, valets, butlers and housekeepers.” Indeed, there’s even a Garrison Club Rolls Royce parked up by the main entrance, ready to whisk residents to Harrods or anywhere else they want to go within a two-mile radius. “You see cars like this at the world’s finest hotels but never private residences,” Bremermann says.

Read more: Sea2See recycles marine plastic to create fashionable eyewear

His team are well aware that true luxury is time – and this, he says, is The Garrison Club’s main consideration when responding to their members. Residents at 8 Whistler Square are greeted by the same faces each day, who will offer to help with their shopping, ask if there is anything they can organise, without ever being intrusive. “It’s about having the right presence and being intuitive enough to read people,”

Bremermann says, “Never a long conversation but always an acknowledgement.” The Garrison Club runs the communal parts of the development, which so far include a Technogym, Elemis spa and 20m pool, connected to the residences and townhouses via lifts and underground walkways. With the app, residents can book training rooms or a Pilates studio, or treatment suites in the Elemis spa. “We know leading personal trainers and beauty therapists and can put our members in touch with them,” Bremermann says.

Luxurious indoor pool

Spa interiors

Residents of the new townhouses at Chelsea Barracks are able to use the facilities of The Garrison Club, such as the spa and pool (above)

His team also runs the private cinema, which has tiered seating for 16, blankets and a popcorn and drinks bar, and the games room with private drinks cabinets for residents and a billiard table. “We can arrange food and drinks at any hour of the day,” he says. “We’ll get to know the residents and make sure we have what they want to hand.”

Read more: Introducing the next generation of filmmakers

The private business suite, with lounge area and two boardrooms, is a surprise hit with residents, who are opting to work from home rather than travel into the office. The Garrison Club staff are on hand to provide tea and coffee and help with the video conferencing and other technology. “If lunch is required, we can arrange for it to be delivered from Daylesford Organic up the road within an hour,” Bremermann says. “We enable our residents to be flexible – which is another luxury in today’s world.”

Interiors of smart business centre

Residents can make use
of the business centre

For families, the fact that The Garrison Club has relationships with top private schools including Garden House and Eaton House is reassuring, as are its links with leading staffing agencies who can source nannies, housekeepers and drivers. The club can help organise events such as 21st birthdays and christening parties in the opulent Residents Lounge, which can be booked for a relaxed dinner for friends or larger celebrations. “Residents can bring their private chef or we can find them caterers,” Bremermann says. His team also has a close relationship with entertainers Sharky & George, who host some of London’s most elaborate children’s parties. “We can transform the Residents Lounge into a jungle with real crocodiles, Komodo dragons and meerkats as well as aerial acrobatics,” says George Whitefield, co-founder of Sharky & George. “Or an Alice in Wonderland UV disco with edible bubbles, karaoke and 60mph candyfloss.” Bremermann also anticipates helping organise private events in the communal pool and in the spas at the 13 newly completed townhouses, all of which have pools.

Billiard room

The Billiards Room at The Garrison Club

It’s The Garrison Club’s all-seeing eye that Bremermann expects residents will be most grateful for, though. Chelsea Barracks will evolve into a lively neighbourhood with cafés, an art gallery, restaurant and an NHS health centre, but the club’s job is to make sure its members are safe and secure at all times. “It seems free and open here but there are many discreet cameras and everybody working for The Garrison Club is also part of the security team,” Bremermann says. “We know who goes for a run every morning; we know who is familiar and who isn’t. We look after Chelsea Barracks like it’s our own home.” For residents with older children who are studying in London, this support is reassuring, he continues. “We’ve employed people who really care. This is our residents’ London home and it’s our job to make it feel that way.”

Smart lounge area with sofas and books

The residents’ lounge

As more townhouses and residences are complete, and more residents move into the neighbourhood, The Garrison Club will grow and evolve too, Bremermann says. “We’ll listen to the residents and react to their needs – even if eventually we have to use a golf buggy to respond to their calls.” He sees the moving-in process as a key part of The Garrison Club’s role – so far his colleagues have arranged state-of-the-art machinery to transport valuable artworks and pianos through upper-floor windows and have overseen snagging lists for overseas residents making internal changes to their properties. “There are always glitches when you move into a new home – we are here to smooth things out.”

The Garrison Club is causing quite a stir in Belgravia. One resident is investing in a residence in Chelsea Barracks in order to gain membership, while those who would previously have bought up the period townhouses on Eaton Square are opting for penthouses in the development. “I can see why they’re making that choice,” Bremermann says. “In Belgravia, you’re buying a legacy; at Chelsea Barracks you’re buying a legacy and also a lifestyle.”

For members only

A private jet to Paris
Garrison Club has links with VistaJet, and can also book you lunch at the Le Grand Véfour.

Supervise your shopping
Staff are on hand to receive deliveries and will unpack your groceries.

Plan your birthday party
Complete with private chef, professional tablescapes and entertainment for the little ones by Sharky & George.

Find you a dog walker
Or a leading personal trainer, beauty therapist, nutritionist. Or a hairdresser, to come to the private salon in the spa.

Find a school place
The club has links to leading local private schools and can also find you a nanny and baby-sitter while they’re at it.

Find out more: chelseabarracks.com

This story was originally published in the Spring 2020 Issue.

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Reading time: 7 min
Man standing in front of street artwork
Man standing in front of street artwork

Philipp Plein at his Resort show during the Cannes Film Festival in 2018

Philipp Plein is the partying designer for the Monaco private-jet set, who has also retained his status among fashion’s elite. Harriet Quick meets a man with a keen business brain and the unashamedly alpha swagger of a self-made global entrepreneur

“I can remember going to Salone del Mobile for the launch of my furniture line. I rented a truck and drove to Milan with my former girlfriend. We set up the booth ourselves and we slept in a motel. It turned out the motel was also operating as a brothel. Each morning, we had to leave the room empty as it was booked for ‘use’,” says Philipp Plein. “We had dinner at the Autogrill on the highway every night. It was all we could afford.” Plein’s first foray in the business of design was more than 20 years ago and the memory has a fuzzy, sleazy halo.

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Male model waring Philipp Plein jacket

A model in Philipp Plein AW19

Today, the Philipp Plein empire encompasses menswear and womenswear collections, accessories, Philipp Plein Sport and 120 stores worldwide (some lease, others franchise), plus the menswear brand, Billionaire (a majority stake of which was purchased from Formula One managing director Flavio Briatore in 2016; it caters for gentlemen who prefer blazers to leather perfectos). It’s been reported that the group generates annual revenues of around €300 million.

As founder, CEO and creative director, Plein exudes the pride of a self-made man. The extrovert alpha male/female personality of his eponymous brand has earned legions of fans who are not in accord with the prissy propriety of high fashion. The stores (on the rue de Rivoli in Paris, London’s Bond Street, Passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona and Soho in New York City) gleam with steel and shiny leather, embellished with Swarovski crystals. Mannequins feature six packs that spell machismo, and everything is dosed in irony.

Model standing backstage at a fashion show

A model backstage at Plein’s AW19 show in New York.

“The experience of building a business from scratch makes you really appreciate things,” says Plein of his trajectory from nobody to head of a fashion empire with 1.7 million Instagram followers. “Nothing was a ‘given’ or ‘easy.’ What people forget when they see the stars of today are the years of dedication and sacrifice. People suffer to reach certain goals.” He doesn’t go into the sacrifices he made, yet it is blatantly clear that Plein, who has an art gallery of tattoos on his considerable biceps, is an ‘all over everything’ workaholic. “I don’t get dropped, I drop the best sh*t in the game – on to the next one,” reads an Instagram post on 3 May 2019, with an image of a female model wearing fantasia eye make- up and a knockout crystal embellished body suit. Ahead of the Met Gala Camp: Notes on Fashion extravaganza, it was decidedly timely.

Read more: Gaggenau’s latest initiative to support emerging artisans

The Munich-born entrepreneur (son of a heart surgeon) possesses a fiery cocktail of Italian flare and Teutonic discipline. He launched into the design business creating sleek stainless-steel beds for dogs and then furniture for humans (he still owns 50% of the small steel factory that made his range) and went on to launch a line of upmarket objets and trophy tables with leather inlays. Dog owners from Miami to Zurich fell in love with the designer pet accessories and via that venture, the young Plein received an on-the- job education in the tastes and materialistic whimsies of the super-wealthy.

Model walking on catwalk

The Philipp Plein AW19 catwalk show in Milan

Celebrities sitting on car bonnet

Christian Combs and Breah Hicks at the opening of a new Philipp Plein store in NYC

Philipp Plein the label had planted its roots. Next came the Swarovski crystal-skull- embellished military jackets. They sold from rails at furniture trade shows. That led to an apparel collection featuring more leather, shredded jeans, diva dresses and mini skirts with the kind of proportions, detailing and quality (the collection is made in small Italian factories) that made them several cuts above the average rock ’n’ roll cliché. The collections’ fun- loving rebelliousness appealed to a generation of pop stars, moguls and party kids. Jasmine di Milo, Mohamed Al Fayed’s daughter, was one of Plein’s first customers and bought the line for her mini in-store boutique at Harrods.

“I started marketing the brand into Europe – Germany first and Italy, France and the UK followed,” says Plein. “In the mid oughts, we entered the Russian market and then China. It was a wholesale brand and we went to all the major trade shows.” On early trips to New York’s Coterie show, even his teenage sister came along for the work/vacay ride.

Celebrities attending VIP event

Socialites and celebrities gathered for the opening of the new Philipp Plein store in New York in 2018

The Plein lifestyle – fast cars, nightclubs, champagne, sex – proved a lure. While the level of flash made the arbiters of taste wince, no one could deny the coherence and the quality. This was the era of kick-ass disruption. Stella McCartney and Phoebe Philo were turning Chloé into a ‘girl power’ brand, Alexander McQueen was confounding the world with his fusion of romantic beauty with punkish violence while Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga was reviving the moribund house with his electric hybrid mix of futurism, utility and armour.

Through these players, the luxury fashion world was reignited with guts and creative daring. The trajectory was bigger, higher (remember those teetering platform heels?) and in the case of Tom Ford’s Gucci, ever sexier renditions of slinky jersey dresses and low-cut blouses. Plein, who dubbed himself a heroic outsider, was astutely aiming in on the person who did not like concepts and intellectual leanings. In this decade, while fashion trends have leant away from flash and excess, Plein has kept to his groove and it’s paid off. A slew of openings (the majority are franchised stores) followed, aligned with blockbuster shows starting in 2010 and a bonanza of parties.

Do a Google Image search for Plein, and you will be blasted with a showcase of fantastical show sets and extravagance featuring hip-hop stars, racing drivers, sports champs and endless hot models – male and female – living it up to the extremes of camp and bling. The vision was epic and the investment huge. He hired British set designer Simon Costin (the mastermind behind Alexander McQueen’s early shows) and drafted in performers (yes, Snoop Dogg, Rita Ora, Chris Brown) to realise the brand fantasy. A fun park with a rollercoaster, the Harlem Globetrotters, a monster truck crashing into cars – it was all about ‘action’. The brand outbid itself season after season with show costs reaching into the millions.

Luxurious home interiors

Luxury holiday villa

Plein has homes around the world, including his Manhattan penthouse and La Jungle du Roi villa in Cannes

Plein was not an outlier – it was a period of extravagance. The fashion industry in the late oughts valued spectacle, which, via live streaming and nascent social media platforms, could be viewed across the globe. Tom Ford at Saint Laurent showed in giant black Perspex boxes in the gardens of the Musée Rodin; Louis Vuitton under Marc Jacobs created visions of Paris with moving lifts modelled on the Ritz hotel. Chanel spearheaded the interactive, hyper-reality set with a supermarket, a rocket launch pad and a casino at the Grand Palais. The ‘immersive’ experience was born and Plein wanted to spoil his guests with the outlandish best.

Male model on catwalk

The Billionaire AW19 catwalk show in Milan

Sustainability issues, questions of timing and seasons have somewhat tempered the phenomena of the blockbuster show. Louis Vuitton presented its Cruise 2020 collection at the TWA terminal at JFK (now a design gem hotel) with a note that the plants used for the relatively simple décor would be redistributed or turned into compost. Excess and ‘waste’ is not in fashion. Powerhouses are acutely aware that we are seeking diverse indie and often ecologically minded activities, at least in the West.

Some brands are scaling down, while others are changing formats, taking the show on the road and off the traditional Paris, London, New York axis. The Philipp Plein show now is a relatively plain production that concentrates on the clothes. “We staged the last ‘big’ show in Brooklyn and invited 4,000 people,” says Plein. “From that moment on, I thought: ‘I don’t always want to give people what they expect.’ I want to focus on in-store events and see the investment showing up in sales,” he says. “We are a big player online, with €55million in sales, and this does not include channels such as Farfetch. But we believe in offline stores – you need to be successful in both. While more and more people might be consuming online, we still need to dream the dream, enter stores and touch the product. It’s an omni-channel solution.”

Champion boxer on stage at fashion show

World champion boxer Vasyl Lomachenko is the face of Billionaire

While the old school and economy of fashion relied on editor diktats and designer worship, Plein sees the power pass to the consumers, who, via social media, exert influence and opine endlessly. “The consumer is much more powerful than the medium itself: choosing what information to consume, where to find the information and who to follow or unfollow. It’s much more democratic. In the past, we were able to ‘control’ the consumer, now the consumer ‘controls’ us,” concludes Plein.

Read more: At home with minimalist architect John Pawson

On Instagram, Plein is a dynamic, flashy act to follow, allowing access into his personal world. You’ll find him with his feet up in his marble and glass New York penthouse watching The Rolling Stones; in a helicopter with his five-year-old son flying across the Hudson River; or on-site overseeing the build of an Italianate mansion. One of his favourite photo- op situations is in the vicinity of premium cars. His brand recently collaborated with Mansory on a limited-edition series of ‘Star Trooper’ Mercedes G63 vehicles, for €500,000 each.

He looks fit (running six km a day), full of pluck and at the same time, with his cropped hair, stubble and brown eyes, approachable. He calls himself an “old-school guy” – he likes cars, women, the trappings that wealth can buy, sleek modernity and shiny surfaces. He does not smoke and rarely drinks. His vice is Red Bull. “I want to live a long time,” he adds. For all the wild projections, Plein is ultimately tidy. He has his son, who lives with his mother in Brazil. “He has a happy, normal life,” says Plein of his little boy. “Of course, he enters into my world and he is privileged in the sense that he can enjoy both points of view. As parents, we have a big obligation to our children – and how influential we are towards to them. They are born pure and what that child discovers and experiences, builds character and establishes a value system. It is a base that they will then develop themselves.”

As for kicking up his own feet, Plein – who is now in his forties – is dubious. He has weighed up the option of selling his business, but this would mean giving up a majority stake. “My father told me: ‘Money is an obligation. What would you do with this money? If you don’t know, then don’t sell.’ I think I have mastered my own industry – I don’t know anything else and I am not in need of money right now,” he concludes.

Where the brand ego stops and the real Philipp Plein actually starts is hard to gauge. You can’t imagine him seeking an alter-ego life with a rustic cabana and a plot of agave plants in Mexico. “It’s difficult for me,” he says. “I have grown into the brand and the brand became part of my own life and reflects pretty much my lifestyle. You don’t have too many designers who have a namesake brand anymore,” he says.

Plus, future ventures including scent (the men’s cologne, devised by famed ‘nose’ Alberto Morillas is launching this year) and cosmetics, depend on his presence. Earlier this year, he put in a bid in for the failing Roberto Cavalli brand, which subsequently filed for bankruptcy and now seems irretrievable, not a ‘renovation’ investment. “I look at fashion like a sport,” says Plein. “If you want to perform in any industry you have to be mentally fit and able to deliver results, and you are always under pressure,” he says. “Designers are drafted in like soccer players.” He admits that he does not have a lot to say on sustainability issues (gen up quick), but is happy that his manufacturing is Europe- based and small-factory led.

The exotic leathers might be on the way out and times might be turbulent, but Plein’s view on luxury remains constant. “We give people unnecessary things that no one needs, but everyone wants.”

View the designer’s collections: plein.com

This article was originally published in the Autumn 19 Issue.

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Reading time: 11 min