From club kid to fashion house head, we talked to Diesel Artistic Director Nicola Formichetti about what he’s achieved so far, and how he hopes to push things forward with the brand this year.
There aren’t a lot of people in fashion with a CV as broad as Nicola Formichetti. One-time quintessential London club kid, his tenure at Dazed & Confused in the mid-noughties brought him to the attention of many a millennial trend follower at a time of renaissance for “Cool Britannia.” However, it was his subsequent work as personal style advisor for Lady Gaga that catapulted him into mainstream households around the globe as the man behind so many headline-grabbing wardrobe choices (who could forget the meat dress?), opening doors he could’ve only dreamed of.
Over the years he’s worked with publications as prestigious as V, AnOther and Arena Homme +, fashion houses as storied as Dolce & Gabbana, Alexander McQueen and Prada, and brands as ubiquitous as Nike, Stussy and H&M. Two years ago he made headlines after he stepped down from his position at Parisien coutourier Mugler to spearhead Diesel’s monumental #DIESELREBOOT (complete with hashtag), taking up the role of Artistic Director and overseeing everything from clothing to runway design.
With one well-received debut collection under his belt, a solid Spring/Summer 2015 follow-up just hitting stores now and a third about to be presented, we felt the time was right to ask the pop culture polymath a few questions about his vision of fashion past, present and future.
Much has been made of Diesel’s notorious #DIESELREBOOT, something you’ve been at the very heart of. After two years in the hotseat, do you feel the job is done, or is there still some way to go?
Oh my God, I haven’t even started yet! These past two years for me have been more about fixing what’s inside the company. Diesel is a huge brand and it takes a long time to figure the ins and outs, but now I feel like the reboot is complete and it’s time to go all out. We have so many amazing projects coming up this year and next. It’s going to be a crazy ride!
How much personal freedom have you been given to shape the brand with your own ideas? Was (Diesel owner) Renzo Rosso always happy to let you run wild, or were there any points where he has had to rein you in?
I love working with Renzo; we work very well together and it’s a lot of fun. He has a wealth of knowledge from the past 35 years of running Diesel. I’ve learned a lot from him and he loves all my crazy ideas – in fact, he’s always pushing me to do more and more!
The allure of British subculture is well documented in fashion, and is going through a real renaissance right now. Do you think your own affinity with the London club scene has been important in defining the direction of Diesel 2.0?
Of course, London plays a big part in my work. I am always so inspired by the people I meet and see on the street. I also spend a good amount of time in Japan and Italy, so I can really see the variance between all of these different cultures.
Your first collection for the company took things back to its roots, with the core areas of leather, denim and military attire seen through the lens of Britpop-era Britain. Is this set to be a recurring theme, or can we expect something entirely new in future?
Leather, denim and military are the core values of Diesel. Yet there’s also another important factor, and that’s POP – you know, the colorful Diesel from the 1990s. This is very important, and I plan on tackling that a lot more this year. For subculture inspiration, Britain is definitely very important, but I’m also looking at America, Asia and other regions too.
With your dual Italian/Japanese heritage, working at a Venetian clothing label that specialises in denim seems pretty apt. With distressed denim surging in popularity right now, are you experimenting with any exciting new treatment processes?
Yes! We experiment every day here: especially with denim. We are doing something really incredible, but it’s still a secret right now. You’ll have to watch out for the new collection!
Obviously your time with Lady Gaga was enormously influential for your career, and seemed to align perfectly with your tenure at Mugler. Now you’ve moved on from working with both those parties, do you see your new muse, Brooke Candy, as the ideal match for Diesel?
It’s so exciting to be able to work with a talent like Brooke. She is about to become huge. We have so many amazing songs and ideas for this upcoming year, and cannot wait to share all of this very, very soon. Brooke is perfect for Diesel; she is creative, strong, and has a real rebellious attitude.
Now that you’ve started to work with musicians alongside fashion brands, do you think this will always be the way for you?
I love working with musicians – it’s so natural for me since I feel like music and fashion are completely symbiotic. We designed some costumes for Beyonce last year, which was amazing, and we’ll continue working with more musicians this year.
With the boundaries between popular music and high-fashion perhaps more blurred now than at any point in recent memory, do you think artists feel more of a need to have a presence in fashion, whereas before they’d be happy occupying space in just one industry?
Yes, the fashion and music industries have changed a lot in the past few years. It’s all merging into one big single industry, and I think that’s really cool and important.
Finally, can you give three things you hope to achieve in the next five years, both at Diesel and beyond?
- Do a lot of cool stuff.
- Do a lot of crazy stuff.
- Make Diesel the coolest brand on the planet.
Keep an eye out for Diesel’s Spring/Summer 2015 collection in stores soon. In the meantime, check out Diesel’s pop-inspired new advertising campaign.
Photography by Jacob Breinholt for Highsnobiety
- Photography: Jacob Breinholt