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Secret Shopper: Philipp Plein's crypto concept store

Jeremy Lim
20 May 2022 visited Philipp Plein’s newly opened "crypto concept" flagship on 9 Bond Street, which claims to be the first in London to accept payment for physical goods in cryptocurrencies.

One of fashion's biggest advocates for the metaverse, the German designer said shoppers at the Mayfair boutique can expect to be overwhelmed by the flagship's "retail experience 4.0", which would be rolled out to his 100 other outlets around the world, if successful.

With three floors of Philipp Plein collection and a mix of fashion, cryptocurrency and the NFTs’ (non-fungible tokens) digital art to dive into, I took my first step into Plein’s ambitious new concept.

The Windows & Entrance

As I walk past the wealth of elegant window displays of luxury houses and jewellers on Old Bond Street, I began looking out for Plein's "store of the future".

With its lime green interior contrasting against a clean white exterior and signage, the flagship strikes me as a luxury boutique catered for attention-grabbing fashionistas alongside neighbours Cartier and Valentino. I stood outside for a while, looking excitedly for any signs of "metaverse", "cryptocurrencey", "NFT" that evaded me at first glance but could not find any.

While the store front failed to convince me of the advertised crypto/metaverse-friendly concept, I felt compelled to enter the store and discover Plein's retail experience 4.0.

The Store-fit & Displays

Known for his provocative ad campaigns and multi-million-dollar runway shows, Plein's London flagship is designed with a similar "manic luxury". With his initials scrawled across the ceiling and flashy sculptures taking up the centre, the store displays are every bit as in-your-face as his collections are.

I was told that the bright colours, chromatic trees and steel frames are all part of the store's pop-up, and the store will go through a refurbishment at the end of the summer.

"When will the store reopen and what can we expect to see?", I asked. Black and fuchsia pink across five floors at the end of September, was the cryptic reply.

The Products

The store's ground floor offers a range of accessories and footwear as you would expect from a luxury fashion boutique, from luxe leather tote bags to bejewelled hightop trainers fetching up to £5,210.

The second floor showcases Plein’s Spring/Summer 2022 ready-to-wear collection which reflects his irreverent and flashy design aesthetic - nothing that I would be inclined to add to my wardrobe unfortunately.

However, still no obvious distinction that I'm in a crypto-concept store so I decided to ask the luxury sales associate, who had chaperoned me across the store, about it. "There is a QR code which you can scan at the sole of the shoes, the currencies are displayed there," she said, without going into finer details.

The QR code led me to the Philipp Plein webstore on my phone, which told me that the leather loafers in my hand were going to cost me £995, or 0.0402 BTC in Bitcoin currency. The screen also reminded me that the store accepts 24 cryptocurrencies.

With the cryptocurrency exchange constantly in flux in line with demand, I was told that the currencies are updated each day to reflect changing exchange rates, though the sales associate does not seem very sure herself.

Having discerned my consumer profile from my line of questions, she duly guided me to the next floor, where the M.O.N.A. (Museum of NFT Art), also described as “the first physical art gallery of the metaverse” is located.

I was greeted with a less exotic-looking interior, with six scuptures flanked by 4 digital screens on each side. The sales associate said I could receive a free NFT, or digital product from the purchase of physical products in the room, which drew my interest towards the available offering. I was disappointed to discover that the pixel NFTs, which costs about £100 each and could grant me exclusive access to future launches and parties were no longer available as the exclusive NFT video game has ended.

"What is available for sale in this room?," I asked. The answer was the 2 feet tall Crypto King$ art collection created by Philipp Plein and Antoni Tudisco. Each "Lil Monster" sculpture costs £21,000 (€25,000), and comes with a 3D NFT of the sculpture. Unfortunately, no one in the store seem to know how many tokens of this limited-edition collection were available in the world, so I was able to depart the store without fishing out my physical or digital wallet.

The Service

While I was admittedly pleased to be offered a luxury boutique experience and chaperoned across the store, it became distinctly clear that the store mainly operates the same way as its luxury neighbours would, with the added benefit of crypto payment options.

The sales associates appear to have a wealth of knowledge regarding the physical products in the store, but my questions about Plein's NFT offerings and metaverse plans were met with less certain replies. While I was told that the store had several crypto transactions since it opened three weeks ago, the sales associate declined to reveal the amount or number of transactions.

Perhaps I would have received a different response had I shown more conviction in one of those £21,000 sculptures, but I left the store with a direct line to Philipp Plein's store associate - which might come in handy in future.

In Conclusion

The concept of a "crypto-concept" store is an ambitious and novel retail experience, and I was not expecting a perfect model at Philipp Plein. But the concept store is still a long way from providing a Web 3.0 experience and it is all a little too awkward and obtuse at the moment.

There is still a great deal of potential in the world of cryptocurrency and NFTs, and it might well be the future of the internet just as the idea of e-commerce was 25 years ago. But for now, there are simply too many obstacles in place for the concept to achieve mass adoption and record-breaking sales at the present.

Perhaps Plein's concept flagship, like the $1.4 million Plein Plaza he is building in metaverse platform, Decentraland, will be buoyed by changes in technology and global circumstances as online marketplaces experienced in the mid-1990s.

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