Fashion rebel Philipp Plein opens up about his journey as a designer, his new store in Singapore and his plans for world domination.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Fashion rebel Philipp Plein opens up about his journey as a designer, his new store in Singapore and his plans for world domination.

Not many designers can say they started out with law school, but Philipp Plein can. This was the unexpected beginning the 41-year-old German designer had before he found his way into the world of fashion. Today, he is known for a devil-may-care, flashy design aesthetic that has racked up a legion of devoted fans—as evident at the opening of the Philipp Plein duplex store in Marina Bay Sands, which saw hordes of fans pouring into the boutique to rifle through his latest offerings.

Think club-ready clothes—ripped t-shirts, skin-tight patent leather, metal-studded jackets, and daring party dresses—often described as “manic luxury” for their unapologetically loud style. (His first collection, which consisted of vintage military jackets reworked with glitzy crystal skulls, was an instant hit amongst affluent, thrill-seeking youth who flock to his stores in droves.)

There are naysayers of course—members of the fashion cognoscenti who deem his clothes too over-the-top—but the designer blithely brushes off criticism, focusing solely on his clients and what they want. For Plein, this could be anybody. “They don’t have a common nationality, gender, or even age. My client is anyone who wants to have fun. And when we do something, they get really excited. They line up for it,” Plein notes.

The excitement is understandable. The man makes near-constant headlines. From provocative ad campaigns, to multi-million-dollar runway shows frequently fronted by celebrity performers, to profusely extravagant shows that often involve life-size rollercoasters, monster trucks, and explosions aplenty, Plein has clearly earned his reputation as the king of excess. “My philosophy is easy: I do what I want,” he shrugs. 

While some of this success stems from his signature “more-is-more” approach, the designer thinks that the main driving factor behind his eponymous brand’s ascent is himself. “Successful fashion brands are created by a person who gives the brand a soul, which is important, since the product is changeable. Nowadays, many brands don’t have personalities anymore.” To ensure that his own brand remains attractive, Plein liberally lends his infectious energy, irreverent attitude, and bold humour. In some ways, he is his own client, perhaps that’s why he understands their desires so well.

Plein also maintains an acute, nearly clinical perspective on the fashion business. For him, it’s simple: Every fashion purchase today is a luxury one. “What is luxury? It’s when you consume more than you actually need. Everyone in the civilised world has enough clothes today, so why do they still come into the store?” Plein thinks that the answer is that customers are looking for an experience. Hence a boutique interior decked out in neon lights, crystals, marble and more marble. Featuring Murano glass chandeliers and glittering supersized skulls as décor, the store gives customers a taste of what the Philipp Plein brand is about: Unabashed showmanship and unrestrained luxury.

“When I came to Singapore six or seven years ago, I remember thinking, ‘Wow, it would be a dream for our store to be in this mall!’ I could have never expected to have such a big one.” It’s clear the designer has big plans for the future of his brand: “We are conquering the world, and Singapore is an important part of that. We are going to build a dynasty.”