For all the shallow, performative statements and half-baked apologies issued by fashion brands and designers amid the Black Lives Matter protests, the most insidious remark of all may have come from menswear's resident scumbag.
Philipp Plein, a man whose life is as thoroughly tasteless as his namesake label, announced through his representatives that his contributions to Black Lives Matter will be pegged to the lawsuit filed against him by Ferrari.
"In regards of [sic] the various pending court cases filed from Ferrari against him, Mr. Plein is asking to choose solidarity and responsibility over discord in such tragic and divisive moments for our society," read an unsolicited email sent out to press, according to GQ. "The designer is suggesting to commit with a donation supporting the communities most affected by dramatic social events instead of pursuing further legal actions."
Yes, he's serious — As remarkable as Plein being enough of a shameless weasel to try and dodge a lawsuit by contributing to the fight against racism is that he just came out and announced it in a press blast. He didn't need an external prompt to expose himself; he stepped right into the spotlight to say Hey world, look at what a piece of shit I am.
A revised follow-up statement did little to redeem him, as a rep said he'll donate $20,000 regardless but will make a $200,000 contribution if Ferrari drops the suit. That's still less than the €200,000 (~$226,000) Ferrari is seeking in a settlement — down from the €2 million the automaker sought for damages originally — according to his lawyer.
So what's this suit about? — Plein combined his love for Ferraris with his penchant for needlessly tacky and expensive designs by posting several Instagram photos of his brand's sneakers sitting atop his sports cars. Ferrari wants no association with him and sent a cease-and-desist letter saying his posting "tarnishes the reputation of Ferrari’s brands and causes Ferrari further material damage." In other words, a car manufacturer for rich douchebags took exception to this specific case of rich douchebaggery.
Plein handled this about as well as you'd expect someone who makes and wears jewel-encrusted sneakers to and took to Instagram in a since-deleted post to say, "I can’t even put in words how disappointed and disgusted I am about this unfair and totally inappropriate claim against me personally." Ferrari gave him 48 hours to delete the posts in question to avoid a lawsuit, which Plein refused to do within the allotted window. At some point after, however, the posts were taken down and the state of the lawsuit was quiet... until now.
His lawyer Carmine Rotondaro wrote last week, "It is the perception of Mr. Plein that, in these particularly tragic and divisive moments for our society, continuing a legal battle over the pictures of some cars and clothes would be idle and tone deaf." Apparently, it is outside the perception of "Mr." Plein that it's significantly more tone-deaf for him to use $180,000 in charitable aid as a tool to try to get out of a lawsuit.
The suit could have merit — Provided Ferrari doesn't accept Plein's gross offer, it could have a sound case. The Fashion Law writes that the positioning of his footwear alongside the Ferrari logo may lead consumers to think the two brands have collaborated or are otherwise affiliated. That possibility for confusion may not even be necessary, as EU trademark law makes exceptions for well-known marks if the unauthorized use "seeks to ride on the coattails of the mark with a reputation."
But Plein has black friends — Riding the coattails of more successful parties is something of a specialty for Plein. Earlier this year, he used his Milan Fashion Week show to pay "tribute" to Kobe Bryant after the basketball player passed. This was done by sending Lakers-inspired jerseys with Plein's name and Kobe's jersey number in crystals down a runway with not one, but two gold helicopters on it.
Rotondaro's statement also cited Plein's support for "the most important black talents such as 50 cent [sic], Snoop Dog [sic], Naomi [Campbell], Tyga and many more" — apparently legal speak for I have black friends (but don't care to spellcheck their names). This should do little to assuage Plein's reputation as a miscreant, nor should confirmation of his $20,000 donation.