November 10, 2014 12:00 AM | by The Fustany Team
Philipp Plein Shares His Journey As An Entrepreneur and Fashion Designer at VFDE 2014
Philipp Plein is a fashion designer who always stands out among the rest, and after hearing him speak at Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience (VFDE), we finally knew the reason behind this. He does things differently, in his own way and with a unique approach. Read through to find out more about what Philipp Plein talked about at VFDE 2014, his inspiring journey as an entrepreneur and a fashion designer.
On how he started…
My journey started a long time ago, I went to law school but things sometimes take another turn in life. I initially started by designing furniture, not clothes. I was born in Germany and after a few years in law school, I realized that I wanted to do something different. I wanted to become an artist but was afraid because I wasn’t sure if people would buy my art or not. I’m a big fan of leather, which I always included within my furniture designs, but we always had leftovers. At a certain point, I wanted to use this leather and that’s when I created bags out of it. People started buying these bags and then I thought it would be a good idea to develop things further and that was the beginning for me in the fashion world.
I entered the fashion industry at the age of 26, approximately 10 years ago. When you’re young, you’re hungry and you want to go out there and prove yourself and I also wanted to prove myself to my parents. They were quite upset with my career shift as they wanted me to finish university and become a lawyer. That was my motivation at that time, to show them that I can do something out of nothing, which was pretty tough. When I started to create the leather goods and bags, my idea wasn’t initially to create a brand, but things developed step by step. In the beginning I had no strategy because I lacked the knowledge, but my main drive was that I was full of dreams and emotions even though I didn’t know anything about the business life.
On exploring his way through business and the fashion industry…
When you start to work and do business, this is the point in life when you start growing up, because this is the real world. Being an independent label has its advantages and disadvantages. You’ll find a lot of people who doubt you and who don’t know you as a label to support you. It was quite tough to be honest and you have to be very self confident about your idea because you’ll be questioning yourself over and over again. Am I doing the right thing? Am I going towards the right direction? Am I going to succeed or not? At the end of the day you have to remain strong and believe in turning your dreams into reality. Always continue dreaming, I’m a big dreamer, and that gives you the right amount of motivation.
When I started off my label I was on my own, a one man show that was run out of my parent’s house, and it took me a few years until I was able to hire my first employee. Once I started to make money, I hired someone who is still part of the company today and I’m extremely happy about it. The people who started working with me weren’t really from the fashion industry either, so we learned the process as we went by, which takes a while and involves making a lot of mistakes along the way, but as long as you take more right steps than mistakes, then you’ll survive as a business.
I didn’t go to a fashion school, which can be a good and a bad thing. The good thing for me, is seeing things from a different angle, because you don’t follow a certain education, you will automatically do it in another way. This for me is part of the success of Philipp Plein.
On his first fashion show ever…
My first fashion show was in 2010 in Milan. The reason I picked Milan is that I produce everything in Italy and I’m based in Switzerland which is quite close to it. Additionally, it’s all about picking the place that suits your designs the most, and my label works better with Milan than Paris. My only option was to host my show at the same time of Milan Fashion Week, not part of it, but in the evening. I was really afraid that no one would show up to my first show, because nobody knew who I was. Several people told me that I won’t succeed, as no one will come to a show in the evening seeing that fashion editors are too busy and tired or are invited to dinners. Somehow we made it, and I was really surprised by the big success. We had so many people join us and I managed to create a show out of an event, because for me fashion is all about having fun and enjoying yourself.
Everyone has been going from fashion show to the other the whole day and I thought it would be too much for them after a while. I wanted people to come to my show and just relax, have fun and forget about their busy day. I’m a designer and at the end of the day I have to be creative about these things, because I’m not just selling clothes, but I’m also selling emotions. After the show we hosted an event because we wanted people to stay, enjoy their time, dance and hang out with us.
Nowadays designers keep their shows very limited and exclusive, but I personally design for the people and the consumer is my client not just the ones in the fashion industry. That’s why I try to be a little bit more open and accessible to them. I don’t design for the catwalk, so whenever you see a piece on my runway, you’ll also see it in my store. The biggest compliment for me is to see someone wearing my clothes.
On running a fashion company, challenges, achievements and future plans…
I don’t come from a mega rich family, as a matter of fact I didn’t get any support from them and the only reason we have stores all over the world is because we are successful in selling clothes and we’re really performing. When people look at fashion, they assume it’s a very glamorous business, but in reality it’s quite tough and competitive and in order to be successful in it, you have to perform. Running a fashion company takes a lot of time from me, one day I’m a business man and the other I’m a designer. I juggle between these two worlds, 70% business and 30% of my time goes towards the creative part, because you can be the most creative and have the best clothes, but if you don’t market them well and there’s no one buying it, then you won’t succeed. There are a lot of elements involved which contribute in the success of a brand.
Every brand has its own DNA and it needs to keep on developing it over the years. We want Philipp Plein to be a brand that stands for luxury, but at the same time presenting fresh and contemporary designs
One of the most challenging things about this business is understanding retail, which took me quite a while, plus building a team with knowledge in this field. You always have to do your best and sell really well, especially when you want to have stores in the best locations and you’re comparing yourself to the other big brands in the market. You have to perform like they do and this is really hard for a new brand like us.
The biggest problem we have at the moment is our structure, because other brands have been in the market for 30-50 years and they’ve had time to build their own structure properly. Another challenge is managing our growth.
Philipp Plein as a brand at the moment is expanding mainly in retail. We currently have 38 stores worldwide and we plan to have them reach 60 by end of this year, which is approximately 2-3 new stores on a monthly basis. Our plans for the next five years are focused on developing the retail, as for the future I’ll continue going with the flow because I never planned anything before and look where it got me today.