Philipp Plein, the German-born designer known for his extravagant runway shows and bold styles, has opened a new 1,000-square-foot store in Miami, bringing his U.S. fleet to 11 stores, including the Penthouse near New York’s Plaza Hotel which sells V.I.P. clients by private appointment.
The Miami store, which is a pop-up for two years, is part of the brand’s overall strategy to strengthen its retail presence worldwide, counting more than 100 stores around the globe for his multiple brands that include Philipp Plein, Plein Sport and Billionaire.
“It is absolutely wonderful to come back to the the U.S. Two thousand twenty-two has been an incredible year and for this reason, I decided to boost our expansion in the West and opening in Miami represents a milestone in my career. I am excited about it,” said Plein, whose luxury business is based in Lugano, Switzerland.
The boutique, located in the Aventura Mall, is designed by the architectural firm Locatelli Partners. The store features a large logo and crystals and a color palette that goes from the black Marquina and white Carrara marble to acid green for carpets and walls.
During a visit to his opulent New York townhouse last week — his first trip back to New York City in a year — Plein spoke in rapid-fire fashion about all the multiple projects that are underway at his privately held company. Among them are the launch of his furniture line in the U.S.; scouting new locations for stores in the U.S., including Houston, South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, California, and New York’s SoHo, a new store opening in Rio de Janeiro, in November/December, and a desire to open a store in Canada.
The company is introducing Plein Sport to the U.S. market in the first quarter of 2023 and will offer its first women’s fragrance, Plein Fatale, on Oct. 13. There are also licensing agreements for products such as eyewear and watches with De Rigo Eyewear and Timex, respectively, that are performing well since their first drop in 2021.
One of Plein’s biggest projects underway is a luxury boutique hotel planned in the center of Milan, with three restaurants, a pool and night club, expected to open next April. Plein plans to have his spring 2023 fashion show in Milan later this month and will return to the New York runways in February.
Further, Plein said he bought a large ex-Formula One truck with two levels for $700,000 that will travel throughout Europe, starting this month, selling Plein Sport. His plan is to open 200 Plein Sport stores globally in the next three years, and the retail concept is self-service. The stores will be about 700 square feet, including stock, and they will have a limited concentrated offer.
But first things first.
“We’re excited about Miami,” said Plein, who previously had a franchised store at that mall for five years, up until four years ago. He preferred to have a directly owned store there.
“We want a second destination in the Design District in the near future, but it depends on the location,” said Plein, who was traveling to Miami over the weekend for various kick-off events. He said most of the good locations are taken in the Design District right now, but he has a showroom there.
Plein believes his aesthetic is a good match for Miami.
“We are very bling, and I’m the king of bling. I know my clients, I know my geographics, and I know my targets. It’s a Miami client. I’m not doing a suit for a banker on Wall Street. I’m doing a party dress. I’m doing the high heels to go dancing. I have the colorful T-shirts for the guys. I think fashion is about fun.”
He noted that a lot of South American and European customers are coming to Miami for vacation, and during COVID-19, many people relocated in the Miami area. Fifty percent of the Miami store’s merchandise will be devoted to women’s apparel, and 50 percent to menswear. The store, like all the others in the chain, will accept crypto currency.
He anticipates that the women’s apparel and accessories will do well in Miami. “When a man buys a T-shirt, he spends $200 to $300. When a woman buys a dress, she spends $3,000. The ticket is higher,” he said.
Plein has seen a strong customer base in the Florida region. His 2,500-square-foot outlet store in Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise, Florida, does $4.5 million a year. He said when they originally closed Aventura, people came to Sawgrass asking for full-price merchandise. They were taking online orders for full-price items for clients.
He expects that shoes, which represent 28 percent of the business, will be strong at the new Miami store, followed by ready-to-wear. “We’re not very strong yet with accessories but it’s something we are working on,” he said. “We have big licensing deals. During COVID[-19], we started to do licensing business with big companies such as Timex,” he said. He noted that eyewear (optical and sunglasses), for example, has 300 points of sale in the U.S. It’s become the eyewear’s strongest market.
He projects the Miami store will generate at least $3.5 million in sales in the first year.
Plein said the company performed well during COVID-19 in the U.S. Surprisingly, he said, “We had more local clients than we expected. I believe our business in America is mainly based on tourism. But we experienced a strong, local clientele in America who’s buying our product because nobody from overseas was coming to the U.S.” He said people were buying sneakers and leisurewear.
Overall, he said the company is experiencing over 25 percent increases this year. During COVID-19, the company lost $90 million in turnover within the year. “This year we’ll be fully recovered,” he said. Over the past two years, Plein closed unprofitable locations, opened new ones, and relocated some locations. “We went through a health check,” he said. The company cut costs and looked at ways to save money and make improvements. He said they closed some stores but now have more stores today than before. He was able to find bigger, better and cheaper locations. For example, on Rodeo Drive, he moved across the street and is paying half the rent and doing more turnover.
The company closed its six-year-old Madison Avenue store in April 2019, followed by Atlanta and Philadelphia, which weren’t performing well, even before COVID-19 and closed in March 2020.
He feels that New York is still recovering and has a ways to go.
“The city has suffered a lot. I’m not a New Yorker but I live here, and I know the city very well. I have seen sadly how Madison Avenue has gone down the drain over the years. Barneys was the last flagship which was holding up Madison Avenue as a reason to go there to shop. Since Barneys has closed down, Madison Avenue has become very sad and very empty, and very scary. Every second store is empty. Everybody moved down to SoHo, but the prices have skyrocketed now. Fifth Avenue became so expensive,” he said.
But he believes New York will eventually come back to life.
“There’s too much money in the city. There’s too much investment. Nobody will let it go down the drain,” said Plein. “New York will always be New York…people will always shop here.”
Plein said he does no wholesale business for his ready-to-wear and prefers to control his own destiny. Some of his licensed lines are carried in department stores, however. “I don’t want to be dictated by a wholesaler how I should manage my full-price retail stores,” said Plein, referring to frequent sales in department stores. “I opened 10 stores in the U.S. and we’re opening more. I pay the rent, I pay the people, and I want to be in charge when I put things on sale and when to do it…
“We have a very special product and we’re niche. We should keep our niche positioning as long as we can. It secures our future,” said Plein, who’s been in business since 1998 and said he’s not just flashy clothes.
“We’re not just only bling. We also have suits. We’re maximalists,” he said.