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July 31 2014

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Diesel, Now Unleaded: Nicola Formichetti On His Expansion Plans

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“We’re celebrating here!” said Nicola Formichetti, by phone from Diesel’s headquarters in Italy this morning. The reason: The announcement was made today that Formichetti, as was much-rumored when he left his creative director post at Mugler this week, is joining Diesel as its first artistic director. “Mugler was all about creating luxury, and fantasy, and bringing the dream and the entertainment into an already existing brand,” Formichetti said. “At Diesel, I want to talk straight into people’s hearts, people in the street.” Here, Formichetti lays out his plans to put Diesel denim back on the map.

Congratulations.
Thank you so much. Actually, I’m presenting my first project today. It’s our initiative of the Reboot Campaign. It’s the advertisements, starting from June. So it’s the visual side, and we’re going to start a big digital community on Tumblr first. And I want to crowd-source using social media and start getting the armies together, because I can’t do this alone. We need lots of people’s help, and it’ll be a great way to meet new talent and designers and artists. Because Diesel’s such a global brand; the team should be global, too.

Tell me more about the Reboot project.
You can actually go to the Diesel Reboot page. You can just go there, and I’ve already reblogged some of the stuff I liked online. We go in, and you guys can join the community and tell us who you are and what you like. And we’re going to have little missions, so for the first mission, we’ll ask, “What’s your favorite thing?” And another mission would be, “How would you like to see this change?” Or “How would you customize this denim?” And then we’ll give an award per mission. So you’ll get something back. It’s kind of like a dialogue. It’s a new way of using social media, and I’m super excited for that.

What, exactly, does “artistic director” mean? What will your role at Diesel entail?
I’ll be directing the collection. So I’ll look at the entire company—from the clothing to the products, the shows, the marketing, the store experiences, the advertising. All the details. It’s so crazy.

What most interests you about the company?
Well, I love that if you have a great product, and if you have great communication, you can actually get to people. Because that really didn’t happen with me at Mugler. I wasn’t seeing a cool guy wearing my clothes on the street. Yes, Gaga wore it. Beyoncé wore it. But what I wanted was to see someone—like, a cool girl—wearing my jackets or pants on the street randomly.

What are some changes that you’d like to make?
The thing is that I want Diesel to be relevant again. I want it to be the place, the brand, the jean. It used to be that, and it kind of lost its touch. Maybe it became too big or—I don’t know. It wasn’t really on my radar. But I realize when I come here to the headquarters, it’s insane. I mean, they have a whole denim floor, and they’re constantly making samples and new ideas, and the workmanship that goes into these jeans is incredible. So I want to show this more. I feel like it was becoming just one of the brands out there; I want it to be the brand to go to. I don’t want to start from scratch, because there are so many amazing things here. That’s why I love the term “reboot,” because it’s almost like switching it off and turning it on again, like a computer. We’re just evolving.

Will this include work on the Black Gold line?
I’ll oversee it, for sure. We’ve just appointed Andreas [Melbostad], who’s really amazing. I loved his last show. It was so hot. I want to just collaborate. I have no intention of changing Black Gold or anything. I think Black Gold is really special. I’d like to concentrate on the main line first.

Your celebrity friends and high-profile clients were a big part of your identity at Mugler. Will this be the case at Diesel as well?
Hell yes.

So we’ll see Gaga in Diesel jeans?
I’m sure. She doesn’t really wear denim pants, and I’ll have to design something special for her probably. But I noticed that she really likes the denim fabric. We tried to make denim dresses before, and couture gowns, but I didn’t really succeed. Here, I have an amazing team where they can actually do amazing workmanship, so, really, we can make special denim couture pieces for musicians and artists.

Tell me about your history with Diesel.
When I first moved to London for university, I was already a big fan of Diesel because, in the nineties, Diesel was, like, the brand. The stores were the place to go. It wasn’t workwear like Levi’s or G-Star. [Renzo Rosso] gave his jeans more of a fashion status. And there were always crazy events and parties, and I was always a big fan. He approached me, like, three years ago. We started becoming friends and talking initially slowly, slowly, and then I took my Mugler job, so I had to focus on that, but we kept talking and dreaming, and one day, it just kind of clicked. For me, there was nothing else left to do at Mugler.

At Mugler, you got mixed reviews. Is this a concern going forward at Diesel?
Well, no. I think what happens backstage—behind the scenes—doesn’t really matter. No one really knows. I don’t want people to know. I’m here in front of it, so it’s my responsibility if it goes well or if it goes badly. Sometimes it was hard, but I always do my best, so if the reviews are bad, it’s a shame. Also, I always take it and learn and make it into my own for next time, so it was a really great experience. It was scary at the beginning, but all the people that I love, the designers, the artists, and all the people from the past, everyone gets a bit of that. So I think [the criticism] makes you stronger.

Renzo Rosso has been building up quite an empire with Only the Brave—which we touched on in Style.com/Print: the new investment in Marni, those in Margiela and Viktor & Rolf. How do you feel about being under the same umbrella as all these established talents?
It’s exciting! I get to go to Margiela factories now, so I’m like, “Yay! Free and discounted Margiela!”

Photos: Adam Katz Sinding / le-21eme.com

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