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Philipp Plein’s fashion tribute to Kobe Bryant garners mixed reaction

Philipp Plein
Designer Philipp Plein (third from right), Jada Pinkett Smith (second from right), Olivia Culpo (third from left) and several models walk the runway during Plein’s fashion show on Saturday during Milan Fashion Week. The fashion label released a hoodie and tank top as a tribute to Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.
(Pietro D’Aprano / Getty Images)

Two days before Monday’s public memorial at L.A.’s Staples Center celebrating the lives of Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, European designer Philipp Plein decided to have his own tribute to the late L.A. Lakers legend during his namesake brand’s see now, buy now fall and winter 2020 fashion show in Milan.

The result sparked major backlash on social media.

In front of a gilded helicopter and more at Milan Fashion Week and with the help of rapper Tyga, actress Jada Pinkett Smith, model Olivia Culpo and the street artist known as Alec Monopoly, Plein unveiled a limited-edition tank top and hooded sweatshirt in Lakers colors, purple and gold, decorated with Bryant’s “24” jersey number and an image of a black mamba snake on the attack. Plein’s name was emblazoned across the front of the tank top as well as the hoodie in lieu of the team’s moniker.

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Retailing for $2,070 and $3,150, respectively, the tank top and hoodie are being sold to support the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation started by Bryant, according to Plein’s e-commerce site.

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Also in the limited-edition mix are hi-top sneakers in black and purple with yellow bands, flame details and Plein’s name on the back part of the heels. The kicks are $2,220 and available online now along with other pieces from the collection.

Despite Plein’s seemingly philanthropic intentions, the German-born designer’s marketing stunt provoked Twitter.

Still reeling from the deaths of Bryant, Gianna and seven other people in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif., on Jan. 26, many on social media decried Plein’s tribute as being in poor taste.

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Others were just baffled.

Some sought to cancel Plein.

Plein has begun capitalizing on the Bryant-inspired gear, which his label dubbed “a tribute to a legend.” His website features a photo of the designer surrounded by Culpo, Pinkett Smith and other models wearing the Bryant-inspired tanks and hoodies.

Plein is used to staging flashy events and promoting a glitzy lifestyle. He has recruited celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Mickey Rourke and Nicki Minaj to sit in the front row, walk and perform at his over-the-top runway shows.

Tyga performed at Plein’s fall and winter 2020 show on Saturday, and Pinkett Smith opened it with what she described as “rock star stride.”

Plein has built a global business with more than 120 freestanding stores, including one in Beverly Hills. His label is also in more than 500 retailers and has annual sales of more than 200 million euros.

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According to his website, Plein “divides his time between the corporate headquarters in Switzerland, his estate in Cannes and his homes in New York City and Bel-Air.”


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