Fashion designer Philipp Plein is defending his tribute to Kobe Bryant at his Milan Fashion Week show on Saturday night. Plein's show ended with models wearing bedazzled purple 24 jerseys, with the designer's name written in the same font as the Los Angeles Lakers' logo. The background also included gold-coated vehicles, including two helicopters.
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On Monday, Plein sent a statement to USA Today, insisting the display was planned back in November, "before this tragic accident occurred." The show featured former Miss Universe Olivia Culpo and Red Table Talk host Jada Pinkett -Smith.
"This is the reason why they were gilded helicopters on the runway," Plein wrote. "I would have clearly removed them if possible, but it was too late to replace them."
Plein's website listed the limited edition "Plain 24" collection, which included the bedazzled jerseys for $2,070 and a purple and yellow sweatshirt with the design for $3,150. Plein said profits from the collection will go to the Mamba & Mambacita Foundation, and $20,000 was donated before the show.
"This tragedy affected myself and all the world deeply and I feel that my fashion show have been the best moment to express my respect and admiration for Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and his family," Plein wrote. "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. As a matter of fact, I am really doing something to help and support the foundation. Actions speak louder than words."
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Although Plein announced he would make a donation to the Bryant family's foundation, social media was flooded with criticisms of the outfits.
"Distasteful, tacky & material waste," one Twitter user wrote. "Philipp Plein who has so long been making clothing that adds nothing but clutter to the fashion landscape has decided to include gold helicopters along his crystal basketball jerseys after the passing of Kobe & Gianna Bryant. It's disgusting."
"Philipp Plein made two gold helicopters for his show today, which falls 27 days after Kobe died in a helicopter crash," another wrote. "BUT DONT WORRY he whipped up a bunch of Swarovski Kobe jerseys (with 'Plein' written on them??) so it's cool. F— you, Philipp."
Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26. On Monday, the Lakers hosted a Celebration of Life memorial for Bryant and Gianna, where his widow Vanessa delivered an emotional tribute.
"God knew they couldn't be on this earth without each other. He had to bring them home to him together," Vanessa said. "Babe, you take care of our Gigi. And I got Nati, Bibi and Coco. We're still the best team. We love and miss you, Boo Boo and Gigi. May you both rest in peace and have fun in heaven until we meet again one day. We love you both and miss you. Forever and always. Mommy."
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