Kobe tribute sparks major controversy

By: Grace Coughlan, Assistant Arts & Life Editor

Philipp Plein, a German fashion designer and founder of the PHILIPP PLEIN International Group, is facing backlash after he featured a tribute for Kobe Bryant during his runway show during Milan Fashion Week on Feb. 22.

Plein’s show displayed his Fall 2020 collection which emphasizes gold suits for men and sequined dresses for women, featuring intricate embroideries and details. The most outstanding part of the show was the finale, which had celebrities such as Jada Pinkett-Smith and Plein himself wearing Plein-logo almost Lakers purple, Swarovski-encrusted, number 24 basketball attire to honor the memory of Kobe Bryant. 

So why was social media in an uproar about the tribute? I can understand the diamonds being a little too much, but it’s an overall respectful message. However, when you look at a picture of celebrities like Jada Pinkett-Smith, Olivia Culpo, and Plein himself dressed in number 24 jerseys, you can see a giant gold helicopter behind the runway. The jerseys are insulting to the Lakers franchise and to Bryant’s family because Plein is using his own brand associated with an already popular franchise and figure, not to mention the fact that the family and organization are suffering the losses of loved ones. 

Plein claims that he meant no disrespect. According to Page Six Style, the set for the show was planned in November and it was “too late” to change the design and layout before the show. Plein’s claim feels like an excuse to cover up the fact that he made a poor decision with honor a legendary figure. If he wasn’t able to change the set, he should have made the decision to cut out the honoring. I understand that as a designer and celebrity, everything that you do is criticized but Plein should have been able to see how the jerseys and the gold helicopters could be seen as rude. 

According to Plein, profits from the $2,070 tank top and the $3,150 hoodie are being donated to the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation,  an organization created in honor of Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s memory. This foundation serves to further the legacy of Kobe and Gianna through charitable endeavors in sports. According to Plein, the “first $20,000” had already been sent to the foundation the day before the show. 

“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,” said Plain in his interview with Page Six. “As a matter of fact, I am really doing something to help and to support the foundation. Actions speak louder than words.” 

Actions do speak louder than words. The act of incorporating the gold helicopters into the show as well as the finale tribute is speaking louder in terms of discourtesy than honor. I believe that even though the jerseys were a little over the top, it would have had a bigger impact if the gold helicopters weren’t in the background. Plein should have thought about how the message of the helicopters would come across. The donations are very generous, but incorporating both the jerseys and the helicopter was disrespectful, especially because of how recent the accident occurred. 

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