Under several thousand tonnes of concrete and glass, baking in the Mojave sun, we find ourselves at an oasis of sorts. A verdant marble clad watering hole, crafting and manifesting beauty in the desert. It is here, on a weeknight in Las Vegas, that we find ourselves in conversation with the mavericks of creative authenticity, Philipp Plein and Nicolas Cage.
The evening, co-hosted by Cage, marks the opening of Plein’s new retail footprint at the Shops at Crystals. His third on the Strip, and the latest addition to a global empire of 110 mono-branded stores. And yet, despite the jetsettery that has taken both Plein and Cage around the world many times over, there is something special about Las Vegas for both men. A city that lives large in the public’s imagination, and yet whose spark is so often misrepresented or misunderstood.
“I’ve been in Las Vegas on and off for about 17 years now...so that makes me kind of a local,” Cage jokes. Undoubtedly, it’s a town that has been good to him throughout his career. Cage himself has shot over a half dozen films in the city, including the Oscar winning role he reprised in Leaving Las Vegas. “There’s an energy out here that lends itself to creativity.”
This sparkle, imbued in Las Vegas, resonates with Plein as well. He recalls a work trip early in his career to MAGIC, a prominent retail and textile sourcing trade show. Plein showed up at the check-in counter of the newly-opened Wynn, sample filled suitcases in tow. Unexpectedly, he was upgraded from the basic economy room he had booked back in Munich, to a sprawling Villa. “I had a party in the Villa and ended up inviting everyone to my room. And then we jumped naked into the garden [below]…we were naked running around the golf course. And then security was coming…”
Cage jumps in with cinematic disbelief. “Wait, you were NAKED?!” he emphasizes, turning in surprise to his wife Riko Shibata, who is decked out in a studded leather jacket. In dynamic contrast to the blue crocodile bomber and black satin lapel blazer that Cage and Plein sporting respectively (all of which are Plein designs). Plein continues, “And then I jumped in the lake [on the golf course], it was this deep (he sizes up a few inches with his hands) and broke my toe!" It was a bruising flight home in economy the next day, but that night and the possibility Las Vegas embodied, stuck with him.
In a city of gold, towers and monuments to fortunes real or perceived, our conversation turns to the creative process, and the role of maximalism. Cage takes a moment to think, “In what I do with film performance, you can get as big as you want, but it has to be fueled with genuine emotional content to support it,” he explains. “You can’t just be big for no reason. There has to be some purpose behind the size of that which is operatic or baroque.”
Plein takes this idea to a macro level, a distillation of his design process, “You know, I really enjoy creating things. And it's not only about fashion. I like to create something out of nothing…so it doesn’t matter if I design a house or a shoe or a chair.” Speaking on what draws him to Plein’s work, Cage adds, “He makes clothes that he would wear, that he likes, that are a genuine expression.” And it is this core of Plein’s creative ethos that resonates with his customers around the world.
On offer at the store are Philipp Plein’s two most recent ready-to-wear collections, Modern Renaissance and Thousand-and One-Nights along with homewares, accessories, and timepieces. In the presence of luxury and those who create it, our conversation winds down with the question of what is luxury. “Well, time!” Cage quips. “To have the time to spend with the people you care about. To eat food that you really enjoy. And to wear something that makes you feel better…that makes you feel stronger in life.”
Plein seconds this, adding, “Nobody owns time. You can not buy time…You realize that everything is related to time.” A final parting note, Cage concludes, “Tomorrow's never promised. So spend every second you can in the best way you can think of. Enjoy it. Savor it.” And as night descends across the Mojave and the glow of the Strip begins to shine, this feels all the more resonant.