Why German Luxury Label Philipp Plein Is Investing Aggressively in Retail

Philipp Plein is continuing his retail expansion plans with two simultaneous openings in Europe: the brand’s first store in London, on 98 New Bond St., and a new location in Paris for the company’s new activewear line, Plein Sport.

Plein, the 38-year-old German owner and designer of the luxury label, said that his aggressive retail strategy stems from being a firm believer in the power of classic retail and of the in-store experience.

“You know what makes a brand become a brand? Visibility in the market. Advertising is important but what counts is presence, that’s why we still need classic retail,” said Plein during a preview of the brand’s London flagship. “To this date, no luxury fashion brand was [built] digitally; digital is only a complementary channel. You still need the flavor of the luxury experience: going in-store, touching the product, feeling the atmosphere. All these elements come together to creates the brand image.”

Plein pulled all the stops to communicate his brand image of unabashed luxury in the New Bond Street boutique, which spans 4,520 square feet and is developed across three floors. It houses the brand’s full accessories, men’s, women’s and children’s lines. The store features a mix of materials, including a raw concrete floor, glossy dark marble displays and glamorous chandeliers. The brand’s signature Swarovski skull installation graces the entrance, while the childrenswear section on the first floor features more playful elements such as M&M candy dispensers.

Philipp Plein's London boutique
The footwear section is located at a prime location on the ground floor of the new store.
CREDIT: Courtesy Photo

Plein’s popular footwear collections, which include bejeweled logo sneakers for men and women as well as embellished heeled sandals, are featured across the store’s ground floor. Footwear and sneakers in particular are the strongest-selling category for the designer.

The label’s hexagonal shape is prominent throughout the space, on hexagonal-shaped chairs and mirror tiles on the walls.

Even though Plein still likes to see his company — which is based in Lugano, Switzerland, and was launched in 2008 — as a startup, he was particular about securing a prime location on Bond Street for his first U.K. store, unlike other labels that prefer nearby Albemarle or Dover Streets when opening their first retail locations in London.

“When you sell luxury, you have to position yourself close to your competitors, to ensure the right visibility,” added the designer. “It’s just like a food market, where each stand is placed next to the other and you have to choose. They are all so close together because that’s where the consumer is, there are synergies in between and you want to participate. This is how the market works, and we are not here to reinvent the market — we are not big enough to do that.”

The new London location will tap into the city’s international clientele which includes consumers from Asia and Eastern Europe where the brand is most established, but Plein also sees opportunity in attracting a new customer base.

“We are a young brand so we have the potential to attract completely new clients, who will come into the store for the first time to experience the label,” said Plein.

The potential of developing a new customer base is also the reason why the designer is extending his retail expansion plans to the U.S.

“When you open in America, a new market for us, 90 percent of the people don’t know the brand, so they walk in and they don’t know what to expect – and that’s what we call brand building,” said the designer, who opened a Philadelphia location earlier this month. “You have to enter and start to communicate. And the shop is nothing else but a meeting point for people. It’s a communication tool.”

The new Philipp Plein boutique in London
The new Philipp Plein boutique in London
CREDIT: Courtesy Photo

Plein, who is best known for his over-the-top bejeweled sneakers, studded leather jackets and logo T-shirts, admits to feeling like an outsider in the industry and credits his success to this “outsider” status: “Sometimes it’s better to be outside, because when you are inside, you no longer see the bigger picture. This is how we approach the business and this is the reason we exist. We are not Coca-Cola because when you are Coca-Cola, you are for everybody. We are Whisky Cola; we are for 1 percent of the people.”

Athletes, race-car drivers and pop stars were among Plein’s most loyal fans who came together to celebrate the London opening in true Plein style on Thursday night by drinking Philip Plein-branded champagne and dancing to R&B music. Guests included Formula 1 race driver Nico Hulkenberg, DJ Jodie Harsh and Arsenal players Olivier Giroud and Lucas Pérez.

Across the Channel, Plein is opening the first point-of-sale for his luxury activewear brand Plein Sport. The brand mainly consists of cotton work-out clothes for men tricked out in the designer’s trademark style, with the Plein Sport signature tiger motif, and motivational workout slogans.

Plein Sport sneakers will retail for the equivalent of $300 or $500; sweatshirts are $250 to $500, and T-shirts are $160 to $270.

The boutique is on Rue de Rivoli, just steps from the Paris flagship for the main Philipp Plein brand, across from the Tuileries Gardens and Orangerie Museum.

Plein Sport Paris' Rue de Rivoli
Plein Sport opened Friday on Paris’ Rue de Rivoli.
CREDIT: Dominique Maitre

The 1,000-sq.-f.t space designed by CLS Architetti Milano resembles a blinged-out CrossFit gym, with the clothes suspended from faux dumbbells and with imitation weight benches serving as the only seating. LED panels that tile the entire floor of the main showroom flash video clips from Plein Sport’s promotional spot—including in the dressing rooms.

Hanging amid the hoodies and gym shorts is a punching bag upholstered in pleather faux crocodile skin.

Female fans of the designer need not dismay: A women’s collection for Plein Sport is slated to hit shelves for pre-fall 2017. After initial openings in Paris, Amsterdam and Milan, 20 to 25 additional Plein Sport stores are planned in the coming months.

Sneakers Plein Sport collection
Sneakers from the new Plein Sport collection
CREDIT: Dominique Maitre

The designer is also planning an additional 25 store openings for his main brand in locations including Bucharest, Philadelphia, Lotte, Seoul, Sawgrass, Barcelona and Beijing. He is also in the process of finding a site and creating the concept for his next fashion show, which will take place during New York Fashion Week in February.

With contributions from Robert J. Williams

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