Two Of A Kind: These Doodles

Serial imitator Philipp Plein is one daring guy to do Dior. If you want to see the real deal, go to ION Orchard and ride an escalator


20-06-20-21-30-05-716_decoThe escalator plastered with repeated text of Dior, at ION Orchard. Photo: Zhao Xiangji

By now, you’d have read about one designer who had the nerve to put out something clearly associated with another. Philipp Plein, a German lawyer-turned-designer was recently called out for sharing an image of typographic play on his name which bears an uncanny resemblance to what Shawn Stussy has done for Dior in the current season. For some, it isn’t enough your clothes are not original, your communication material has to be too.

The similarities (see below) are not vague. The text, in flowy/wavy hand-drawn style, placed side by side with Dior’s is as different as Brie and Camembert. Mr Stussy’s flowers are replaced with skulls (its use itself is in clichéd territory), but that differentiation is a stroke of futility. Yet, Mr Plein, a noted bling “king of crass”, to paraphrase Bloomberg, sees his neoteric version good enough to stand on its own without immediately evoking the very recent work of someone else, a noted and just-celebrated illustrator/designer, whose influence is acknowledged by Kim Jones in his pre-fall collection for Dior.

Dior vs Plein June 2020Variations on a theme: (clockwise from top left) Dior, Philipp Plein, Dior. Philipp Plein. Photos: Dior and Philipp Plein, respectively

If you need a close encounter of the original, your best bet is to go to ION Orchard and ride—or look at—the escalator on the first floor, just outside the Dior men’s store. This is striking brand communication. Although advertisements stretched across the balustrade panel of escalators are nothing new (these days, almost anywhere can be ad space), Dior did not use this part of the moving stairway. Instead, it employed the much wider skirt panel (inside which the entire system under the steps is hidden) for the textual pattern that, when seen in its entirety, is almost installation art. No selfie-serving-as-fashion-shoot required.

But for Mr Plein, there may not be the need to concern himself with art, let alone art already created by someone else. For as long as he can amplify what is already illustratively stated, he will do so, and it will be consistent with the label’s inherent crassness. Mr Plein, of course, has a different—not necessarily cognizant—sense of what is refine or sophisticated. His eponymous label, including a men’s wear line branded ‘Billionaire’, represents the excess of wealth and embraces what to many others is plain tacky. Bloomberg quoted the designer saying, “Philipp Plein is a brand that’s very polarizing—you either hate it or you love it.” Which side to take isn’t a hard decision to make.

Dior’s Floridian Escapade

It’s Miami for Dior menwear’s super early autumn/winter 2020 show, and it is neither spice nor vice


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It must be a thing with LVMH: associating themselves with USA. They’ve just acquired Tiffany and, last month, Louis Vuitton made a showy appearance to open their state-side factory in Alvarado, Texas. Now, fashion’s favourite son Kim Jones is staging his Dior men’s wear collection for autumn/winter in the unlikely, sun-drenched city of Miami. That does not include other associations with America, such as the appointment of Virgil Abloh as creative director of Louis Vuitton’s men’s wear and the backing of Rihanna (sure, she’s Barbadian, but also an American citizen) to launch her own RTW, Fenty. It’s uncertain what all this means, or if anything at all.

As noteable: the timing of the Dior show is not only outside of the Paris men’s fashion week calendar, it is also unusually early. On that point, we’re a little confused. Dior’s website dates the show as “Fall 2020”, and Kim Jones himself posted on IG visuals that showed what is possibly invitations that said “Fall 2020”, but some media reports tagged it as “Pre-Fall 2020”. Come January, perhaps we’ll know for sure. In any case, fashion seasons are, of course, getting more confusing, possibly inconsequential: couture in November (Valentino, Beijing), fall drops in June, end-of-season sales in October. But who’s tracking? If fashion is increasingly trans-border, it too can be trans-season.

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Kim Jones’s interpretation of fall is specious as well. Nary a thick coat (sure, they’re mostly cashmere) and plenty of shorts, it isn’t surprising that some thought it to be a pre-season collection, sometimes also known as ‘cruise’, but usually nothing to do with what you might pack for one. Could it be because of its Miami location that Mr Jones conceived a collection that seems to be a nod to the eroding shores of the city, it’s laid-back vibe of the day and hedonistic excess of night? Those running shorts (already explored by Nicholas Ghesquière in the Louis Vuitton spring/summer 2018 collection) and printed tops could certainly be worn to any of Miami’s swinging bar and club.

Towards the last part of the show, a model emerges in a T-shirt emblazoned with a thought bubble that says “I want to shock the world with Dior”. Can fashion still shock? Kim Jones is not a known shocker. Among the British designers, he does not have the quirkiness of JW Anderson, not the edge of Craig Green, nor the disquiet of Gareth Pugh. Mr Jones is a commercial designer, who uses hype with the same flair as others using off-placed seams. Often times, his clothes are rather basic, repetitive too, but on the runway, they enjoy the sly advantage of enthusiastic styling.

This season, the models are well kitted out and accessorised. There is a bag on almost every arm (or chest, in the manner of the chest rig)—the Saddle Bag again prominent. Not missing, too, are neck wear, head wear, and even drop earring of cowrie on each left lobe (not right—they’d be too gay, we were told). While this is not a showy collection, there are prints that can be considered fancy to keep things interesting: African-ish patterns of psychedelic fervour matched with animal prints, the usual repeated logos (also scribbles), and florals and checks. And beaded camp shirts (and, yes, camp)! There is nothing stern in the looks, and therein, perhaps, lies the appeal to those who are partial to such affected cheeriness.

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True to form, Mr Jones is playing up the King of Collaboration accolade to the hilt (for Dior, there has already been KAWS and Raymond Pettibone, just to name two). This time, it’s with Shawn Stussy of the surf-wear-turn-streatwear brand Stüssy, which the founder has not been involved with since 1996. It isn’t clear what part he plays in the collaboration, and it requires tremendous scrutiny to discern his touch—reimagining the Dior font and bee. Stüssy’s early offerings were dubbed “Californian lifestyle” clothing, which may have had the same ring as “Calabasas style”, but how does the deeply casual augment Dior’s couture sportswear (or should that be streetwear)?

Apart from a certain feeling that has less to do with a historic city such as Paris than the pleasure-seeking rush of Miami, there is nothing obvious about the duo’s ho-hum output. Point is, the streetwear bubble isn’t going to burst any time soon and the bubble-up effect is still, well, bubbling. The fashion pack is too into it. Dressed-up have found a chum in the casual. About his brand, Mr Stussy said, in 1992, that “everybody calls it surf wear, or urban streetwear, or surf street… I don’t name it, and I don’t name it on purpose.” That must be strategic. Or he wouldn’t end up pairing with Dior.

Photos: (top/screen grab) Dior/(runway) Isidore Montag/