Diesel is no stranger to the GCC marketplace, with stores dotted across Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Beirut, and Manama. Despite its penchant for socio-political bravery and controversial ad campaigns, the Italian brand has traction in the Arab world as a high-end, go-to denim brand with a multi-generational appeal. On the advent of its Make Love Not Walls campaign in London, Vogue Arabia spoke to founder Renzo Rosso and artistic director Nicola Formichetti about the brand’s next-level plans to expand with a collection primed for the Middle Eastern market.
The Fall 17 collection at Diesel Black Gold was an unprecedented moment for the fashion house. Designer Andreas Melbostad focused on a long-line, modest silhouette. “In my vision, I’ve always tried to provide women with a sense of empowerment, protection, and support,” Melbostad told US Vogue. While the collection had the key hallmarks of Diesel – edgy, electrified with youth culture, and urbane – the high hemlines and ripped denim delivering flashes of skin were absent from the runway. Our question mark on brand direction soon evaporated when Formichetti shared that he was beginning sketches for a Diesel collection specifically aimed at the Arab market. “I want to do something very special,” Formichetti tells Vogue Arabia. “I don’t just want to do something ‘whatever’ and just please the market. I want to do something really incredible. It might be one specific idea of a woman and we create a campaign around that… It’s that interesting for me.”
The modest capsule collection evidence mounted further in a follow-up meeting with Rosso. “They are so modern,” Rosso responds when asked about his customers in the GCC region. “I want to do something for them… More clothes for the modest mentality. I like to be global but I also like to be local; to show them how Diesel loves that community… Soon. Soon.”
“I want to do something brave,” declares Formichetti
While the capsule is still on the drawing board over at Diesel HQ, Formichetti adds, “I’ve started working on it but we have to do something new and interesting. Not just doing a different material.”
Rosso is the founder of OTB Group, the company that counts in its brand stable his own brand Diesel, Dutch designers Viktor & Rolf, Marni, and French couturist Maison Margiela. “When I set up OTB, I spent a lot of time working on other brands and Diesel started to suffer,” Rosso tells Vogue Arabia. The Italian is reportedly worth more than US$3 billion and is called the “jeans genius” by international Vogue editor Suzy Menkes yet he shows little to no signs of dialling down on ambition. Rosso allegedly started his self-made career in fashion at his mother’s Singer sewing machine crafting a pair of low-slung bell bottoms aged 15. He joined an Italian manufacturing company, eventually buying out the owner’s stake in 1985. “The real secret is that we have a good team of young people… I am 60 now, but they keep my mind young,” he says.
After a signature series of controversial advertising campaigns, the Italian entrepreneur steered Diesel to be one of the world’s leading denim brands. Rosso appointed fashion trailblazer, designer, and stylist to Lady Gaga, Nicola Formichetti, three years ago as artistic director of Diesel to revive his founding brand into cool new terrain. “Diesel was the coolest of the cool. Then it got really big. And it lost its edge. Renzo said that we can’t just do a fashion show and be cool again. It’s going to be a long process,” Formichetti tells Vogue Arabia.
@Diesel | Instagram
The label has since revived its razor-sharp edge with a little help from photographer David LaChapelle. LaChapelle shot Diesel’s Spring 2017 campaign, entitled Make Love Not Walls. “David put really loud music on set… People wanted to take the clothing after the shoot,” Rosso laughs. Featuring a supersized inflatable tank laden with rainbow-colored stripes with a millennial crew of laughing models blazing through the LA desert sun, the spirit of the brand oozes from the ad. “If I did this campaign at another company, I would be fired… It’s risky,” says Formichetti. “Renzo is like me, he always takes risks. Advertising at Diesel is never about the product.” This is one ad that is almost entirely focused on the brand’s DNA and rebellious spirit, and the clothes are pedestrian to the message. “If they love who we are then they will come. Our customer is intelligent,” Rosso says, with a blue-eyed stare.
The next level of cool for the high IQ Diesel clientele? A modern twist on modest dressing, please, with a side of Diesel’s renegade attitude.