Nicola Formichetti's First Fashion Show for Diesel
On Thursday, April 3th, one year after the appointment of Nicola Formichetti as its artistic director, Diesel, the Italian denim giant, unveiled its long awaited, eagerly trumpeted, astutely media-morphed new identity. The #reboot, complete with the all-necessary hashtag and mandatory Tumblr to visually cash on the wait while creating a global fan base, took no less than twelve months, which in fashion terms is something akin to eternity.
Hence, the magnificently out-of-the-ordinary show, held in Venezia, off any beaten track and overcrowded fashion calendar, in the charming industrial/military spaces of the Arsenale – you can only get there by water taxi, and it’s where parts of the Venice Art Biennale are usually held. Context, so said Marcel Duchamp, is crucial. Only three hundred glitterati between press and buyers were invited to the event, which was Diesel’s exploding plastic inevitable total-galore of a show mixing catwalk extravaganza, live music performance by Booke Candy, the leather-clad, twerking-like-mad adult entertainer heralded as the new Gaga, and hypnotic video projections provided by the endlessly inspired and utterly inspiring Nick Knight. The show also came with free sitting, a rather revolutionary move that put the bigwigs on third row and the wannabes in the first.
And the clothes?
Well, that’s another story altogether: no real revolution here. Or better, not the shaking about-turn one would expect after such an exhausting anticipation. “We deliberately took the slow route – said Renzo Rosso, president of OTB and founder of Diesel, backstage before the show – Nicola went through an archive of 80.000 pieces, looking for Diesel’s true identity in order to propel our DNA into the future. In the over-saturated contemporary scenario, I think we need clear messages to reach the customer. The new Diesel that we present today is based on three pillars: denim, rock and military/utility. The reboot also comes with a highly-selective repositioning, retail-wise”.
Wise words coming from the point of view of a successful businessman, yet a manifesto that makes a style observer wonder. Military, denim and rock are not only part of the Diesel DNA, in fact: they are a given, a substantial element of the way we look and dress today. One way or another, almost everything men wear has its origins in military gear. Furthermore, a pair of skinny five-pockets and a zip-up leather perfecto have been ubiquitous sights for the past fifty years or more: it does not take the vision of a genius to highlight their ever-lasting grip on the collective subconscious.
On his side, Formichetti, a stylist known for his multi-culti, hyper pop metropolitan approach and outlandish Lady Gaga leanings, talked about “The freedom of the Nineties: the moment when I grew up” adding that the collection is about “fashion, but not only fashion”.
With its skinny silhouettes, utilitarian parkas, vaguely S&M leather pieces and statement accessories like the eagle-buckled belts, the Diesel collection felt like a compendium of timelessly hip and alternative codes: the same kind of stuff you find in seedy backstreets and obscure vintage shops in NY’s East Village or in LA’s Melrose. The master stroke was just the gritty casting of cool kids and stray cats – all tattoos, piercings, brightly colored hairdos and Pussy Riot balaclavas – that gave the show a sidewalk-to-catwalk tingle. In a way, it felt like an appropriation of what Hedi Slimane is doing at Saint-Laurent: creating an aspirational world by defining a gang of unattainable, impossibly young, totally hip kids.
Which brings the focus on the main topic: Nicola Formichetti, who took the final bow on the catwalk like designers usually do, is not a designer, but a stylist. In fact, as artistic director, he is not designing anything: he is just leading and directing the team. A stylist, however, has his own way of thinking. His work is not about the product, but the image. It is about communication, hence immaterial as opposed to material.
This first Diesel collection blatantly revealed the riddle. While undoubtedly catchy, like a good tune, and refreshingly devoid of all the over-design tricks usually associated with Diesel, it is essentially about an image: the cliché of underground cool. Yet it feels too polished, too astutely marketed and too studied to come across as authentic: you sense the lack of the raw, unbridled coarseness that makes the alternative, well, truly alternative.
The new Diesel looks promising, but somehow lost in a void of commercial urgency. The reboot is complete. One only has to hope for a good backup stored somewhere safe.
SHOWstudio Fashion Film: Diesel Venice
Concept and Direction: Nick Knight and Nicola Formichetti
Edit: Marie Schuller
Visual Research: Rei Nadal
Set Design: Andy Tomlinson
Models and dancers: Daniel Proietto, Ivan Patrov, Jade Hale-Christofi and Alex Ko
Footage Courtesy Of: Capcom, CoMix Wave Films, Inside Flesh, Sink the Pink, Judas Priest ℅ Sony Music, Trinifold Management, Getty Images and WDR Mediagroup