Feb 26, 2020
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Philipp Plein sparks outrage over botched Kobe Bryant tribute

Feb 26, 2020

German fashion designer Philipp Plein is feeling the repercussions of his fall 2020 fashion show, after his effort to pay homage to the late basketball legend Kobe Bryant was widely criticized on social media.

Phillip Plein - Fall-Winter2020 - Womenswear - Milan - © PixelFormula

Held during Milan Fashion Week, the show included a collection of purple, crystal-covered jerseys featuring Bryant's number '24', as well as the word 'Plein' written in large gold letters. While many social media users commented that the jerseys themselves seemed to co-opt Bryant's image too soon after his death and appeared "tacky", even more outrage was sparked by the runway set's inclusion of gilded helicopters. Bryant, aged 41, his daughter Gianna, 13, and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash. 

In a now widely circulated letter, the designer explained that the catwalk set was already planned and designed in November 2019 -- prior to Bryant's tragic death in January -- and that it was too late to replace the helicopters. 

Plein also used the letter to note that the profits from the capsule collection will be donated to Mamba & Mambacita, Bryant's charity, and said that $20,000 was donated to the foundation the day before the show. More than one of the Kobe pieces retail between $2,000 and over $3,000.  

“...I feel that my fashion show have been the best moment to express my respect and admiration,” Plein said.

“It is sad to see how something positive and constructive can be misinterpreted by people who obviously want to interpret negatively without even having a reason."

The designer continued, saying that he is "really doing something to help and to support the foundation," underlining the words "I am" once and "really" multiple times.

This incident isn't Plein's first brush with public backlash. The designer has previously been accused of unthoughtful, problematic behavior for reportedly "fat-shaming" a journalist who wrote a negative review of his fall 2019 show, and for advertising his brand's Black Friday sales with an ad featuring a female model covered in cuts and blood, the day before the international day for the elimination of violence against women.

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