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April 17 2014

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With Strip Shows and Shibari, Diesel’s Nicola Formichetti and Brooke Candy Take Tokyo

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Brooke Candy

Does Nicola Formichetti ever miss Mugler? “No, I don’t,” he said from the back of a chauffeured car in his native Tokyo last week. And why would he? In his new job as Diesel’s artistic director, Formichetti is not only allowed, but encouraged, to let his signature freak flag fly. “Before Diesel, people used to tell me to turn down the volume,” he recalled. “But [Diesel founder] Renzo [Rosso] always tells me to go crazier. No one’s ever said that to me before.”

Formichetti has scores of potentially crazy upcoming projects for the brand, like capsule denim and leather collections and his very first Diesel runway show, which will be held in a yet-to-be-determined city this March. But his latest efforts—a Japanese Shibari rope bondage-inspired accessories collection and a burlesque-style ad campaign staring rebel rapper Brooke Candy and model Tessa Kuragi—are easily his craziest to date. Featuring Kuragi and Candy, a former stripper, flexing round a silver pole while showing off Diesel’s Spring ’14 wares, the Inez & Vinoodh-lensed images and corresponding film are bound to raise some eyebrows. But on Friday night, Formichetti firmly asserted his role as fashion’s primo provocateur with an X-rated launch party at Tokyo’s Tabloid. Upon entering, guests were ushered through a bona fide sex shop stocked with handcuffs, pearl-studded ball gags, fringed whips, and various other erotic toys. Beyond the accessories installation, which included Diesel’s leather-cage booties, harness-embellished bags, bullet-studded totes, and metallic brogues, were rooms peppered with exotic dancers in black lace lingerie. Meanwhile, in a red-lit space downstairs, nearly nude experts demonstrated the aforementioned art of Shibari to the sound of a harpsichord. Their colleagues, dressed in bottom-baring gowns, lace-up boots, or hot pants, watched on their hands and knees from locked cages.

It was a night that we won’t soon be able to forget, but considering the controversial reputation that Candy has built since commencing her career two years ago, the explicit event felt apropos.

Brooke Candy and Tessa Kuragi

I first met Diesel’s new face at dinner on Thursday night. She descended the stairs of the Park Hyatt’s Kozue restaurant about an hour late, wearing a neon fuchsia wig, the label’s Spring stilettos, black arm-length gloves, and pair of latex thigh-high stockings. All this was topped with a poufy hot pink frock, which would have been positively princesslike were it not completely sheer. Accompanied by her best friend and personal designer, Seth Pratt (having also worked with Azealia Banks, he’s created Candy’s outré ensembles from the beginning), the 24-year-old musician had just flown in from L.A., where she was shooting her new Diesel-funded music video. “It’s a period piece that taps into politics, religion, and female oppression,” said Candy the following day, explaining that the narrative film follows a gang of sister wives who shed their clothes, rise up against their husband, and fight for freedom. “I’m a feminist,” she added. “Any woman who says she’s not doesn’t know what’s happening.”

With a look akin to a post-apocalyptic sex robot (not to mention song lyrics like “I wanna fuck right now”), Candy isn’t your average feminist. But her fearless aesthetic, and often shocking sexual expression, are at the center of her quest for girl power. “You have to have a message when you’re doing it,” she said, referring to her penchant for nudity. “I have an agenda. I’m queer, I’m a feminist, and I’ve said that from the beginning. But once you’re a product of the [music] industry, and you’re getting naked for no reason, then you become an object.”

“She’s speaking the language of now,” said Formichetti, who discovered Candy while watching her dance in Grimes’ Genesis video. “She looks like a creature from another planet, which is kind of my thing, and I love the fact that she raps and dances like a pole dancer—she’s fresh, she’s very smart, and she knows what she’s doing.”

Flanked by two acrobatic strippers, Candy took the stage two hours into Diesel’s raucous fete. She donned little more than a black leather harness and heels (which she kicked off halfway through the set), and screamed obscenities at the audience while flipping her pastel dreads. No doubt, she’s her own woman, and proud of it.

Nicola Formichetti

But you have to wonder: Will Diesel’s typical customer embrace Candy and a collection based on Japan’s sexual arts? “I don’t give a fuck, actually,” said Formichetti. “I know it’s not for everyone, but we want to appeal to people who take risks and have fun. Sometimes they’re harder to get because they have their own thing, but it’s worth it.” Rosso was on the same page. “It’s a whole new moment for Diesel,” he said post-party, professing his appreciation for Formichetti’s vision.

Indeed, from the revamped Black Gold collection (courtesy of recent hire Andreas Melbostad) to its racy, Formichetti-fueled image, Diesel is undergoing a transformation. Candy, too, has much on the horizon—as Diesel’s It girl, she’s working with Formichetti and Pratt on a host of custom denim looks, is in the midst of signing with a record label, will release her debut album in the coming months, and just finished shooting a cover project with a yet-to-be-named men’s magazine. “I feel like I’ve broken down a door for weird women,” said Candy of the forthcoming spread. “I want people to realize that beauty isn’t defined by that conventional bullshit. It’s different now.”

Diesel’s Spring ’14 accessories collection ranges from $150 to $530, and will hit stores this month.

Photos: Courtesy of Diesel

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