Philipp Plein is known in Milan for his over-the-top, no-holds-barred fashion shows: Rap icons like Snoop Dogg and Theophilus London have performed at his shows, while runway sets have included everything from jets of fire to swimming pools and, once, an indoor roller coaster. For his first New York Fashion Week show, held at the New York Public Library last night, he certainly made an impression.
The front row was a veritable celebrity circus: Kylie Jenner, Tyga, Madonna, and the Hilton sisters were all there, but the most controversial, surprising attendee was Tiffany Trump. At each seat programs declared, “Let’s Make NYFW Great Again.” A reference to the guest list perhaps? Or maybe Plein’s intentions of taking over American fashion in much the same brash way Trump won the election. Seated with Rich Kid of Instagram Andrew Warren, Tiffany Trump posed for photographers as Secret Service hovered nearby (meanwhile, the protests against her father this week have been plentiful). Once she was seated, two editors from a top women’s magazine immediately got up and left. Other well-known influencers nearby requested seat changes shortly after.
The confusion of the show was apparent before guests even entered the building. The Naked Cowboy played guitar in 30-degree weather, joined by Elvis impersonators and women painted like the Statue of Liberty. Inside, women dressed as glittery versions of city landmarks like the Chrysler Building, and weirdly, a human personification of a taxi cab, danced under neon lights. The runway was adorned on one end with a sign in the shape of a dragon, much like the kind you would see in the window of a Chinatown restaurant. Another sign featured a topless woman on a swing. “Who the F*ck is Philipp Plein,” shone brightly in neon, perhaps the only relevant question posed all night.
Once Madonna arrived (a full hour late), a roar could be heard across the atrium as a massive crush of photographers rushed over, screaming for photos. She sat down, the lights dimmed, and Nas performed “If I Ruled the World” directly in the center of the runway. His entourage dutifully followed — thereby blocking the views of the runway procession. An editor in the front row threw his hands up in exasperation at the chaos of it all.
If Plein was aware of how much he had irritated his crowd, he didn’t let on. The designer strolled in halfway through Nas’s song, arm in arm with the singer and smiling at the front row. Once the music wrapped, Plein grabbed the mike and made a three-minute speech. “Normally, a designer doesn’t come out before a show so let’s break the rules here tonight. Let’s do something different. It’s time for changes in the fashion industry.” What that entailed remained unclear as he immediately proclaimed, “The people want to ask me, ‘Who the fuck is Philipp Plein?’” He might as well have said, “Drain the fashion swamp!”
Finally, at nearly 80 minutes past start time, the runway models began to walk. The Kills took the stage as Jeremy Meeks, a.k.a. ”Hot Felon,” opened the show in a giant black puffer. Rappers Young Thug and Fetty Wap, along with runway mainstays like Dilone, Selena Forrest, and Hanne Gaby Odiele crisscrossed the library atrium wearing Plein’s black, rhinestone, and fur-centric looks. When all 81 models were finished, at last, the editor who threw his hands up was one of the first to lead the charge out of the building, as 2 Live Crew was preparing to perform their 1990 protest anthem, Banned in the USA. A fitting song to end the evening.