The fashion industry’s response to the protests springing up around the world in the wake of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police has been scattered. Supreme announced plans to donate half a million dollars; Brain Dead managed to raise the same amount with a collaborative tee with Dev Hynes. Virgil Abloh lamented looted stores before pivoting with a thoughtful statement; Union L.A. owner Chris Gibbs reminded GQ that talking about looting takes attention away from police brutality. There’s no single right way to join the fight against police brutality and systemic racism, but some ways are more questionable than others.
In an email Friday morning, representatives for the German designer Philipp Plein, last in the news earlier this year for a runway show featuring bedazzled Plein-branded Kobe Bryant jerseys and two gilded helicopters a month after Bryant’s tragic death in a helicopter crash, announced his intention to join the protest movement. Specifically: he’d like the car manufacturer that’s suing him to stop doing that, and he’s offered to donate to the cause of racial justice if his opponent agrees.
“In regards of the [sic] 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,” the press blast reads. “The designer is suggesting to commit with a donation supporting the communities most affected by dramatic social events instead of pursuing further legal actions.”
Plein has long been known as one of the industry’s masters of cheese, someone with an abiding interest in gaudy, alligator-skinned spectacle. He held his Fall 2019 show in the iconic Philip Johnson-designed Pool Room at the Four Seasons restaurant—and covered the pool, so Lil Pump could perform on it. Mickey Rourke walked in one portion of the runway show.
He is also a longtime Ferrari fan, and in 2019, he began posting a series of photos of his brand’s sneakers with his supercar from the brand. Ferrari didn’t care to be associated with him, sending a cease-and-desist letter explaining that Plein’s constant posting “tarnishes the reputation of Ferrari’s brands and causes Ferrari further material damage.” The case seemed to go quiet from there.
But Plein’s Friday email revealed that Ferrari’s legal action remains active: his lawyer Carmine Rotondaro refers to “the court cases Ferrari v Philipp Plein,” and mentions a recent decision against Plein in Milan that the brand plans to appeal. Now, he wants to settle the complaints. That’s not surprising, on its face: plenty of labels get tangled up in legal affairs that are easier to settle than to deal with in court. What is notable is the settlement proposed by Plein’s legal team.
The idea of continuing litigation at this sensitive juncture, Rotondaro writes, is simply beyond the pale. “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,” Rotondaro’s letter reads. “He feels that, instead of pursuing further appeals, Ferrari and Philipp Plein should better devote their resources to supporting the communities which are most affected by the present dramatic and social events.” If Ferrari would only pull its pending lawsuits, Plein’s saying, he’d gladly donate $200,000 to George Floyd’s family, or to another Black Lives Matter-related organization. (According to Plein, Ferrari is seeking €200,000 in a settlement, down from a starting point he describes as €2 million.)
In a second, revised statement sent Friday morning, Plein, whose Instagram account remains free of protest-related content, said that he would make a donation whether or not Ferrari withdraws its lawsuits. “Even if FERRARI SPA won’t agree with my request, I will still make a personal donation in order to support such an important cause,” he wrote, citing his support for “the most important black talents such as 50 cent [sic], Snoop Dog [sic], Naomi [Campbell], Tyga and many more.” A representative for Plein clarified: “As soon as we will receive a feedback from Ferrari regarding the settlement he will wire the money right away (and prove it).” If Ferrari agrees to the settlement, the rep explained, Plein will donate the full $200,000; if not, he’s in for $20,000.
This is, as Plein’s lawyer writes, a “particularly delicate moment for the entire world.” And on social media, at least, Plein has chosen to take a less antagonistic pose. In recent months, he has continued to post artery-hardening supercar shots, with one significant difference: he appears to have shifted his allegiance to Lamborghini.