Cult Creative

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  • One of the works by photographer Rohan Shrestha for the Diesel+Art projection photography exhibit unveiled in Mumbai in February

The super-cool Nicola Formichetti of Diesel is known for his irreverent, pop culturedriven imagery and creative
vision. By Butool Jamal

Follow Nicola Formichetti, artistic director of Diesel, on Snapchat, and you will be left dizzy with the stream of images and videos—in the span of one 24-hour story, he will probably go from a Diesel party in New York to soaking in the Italian countryside, all en route to a sushi and ramen feast in Japan. But it’s not all fun and games. This iconoclast works just as hard. Japan-born Nicola started his career as a shop assistant in London before he joined the magazine Dazed And Confused, where he climbed the ranks to eventually become creative director. He has collaborated with Lady Gaga on everything from that memorable meat dress to her music videos, consulted for brands like Alexander McQueen and Prada, and was even creative director of the brand Mugler and high street label Uniqlo. This was all before he was roped in by Diesel’s Renzo Rosso in 2013 to help refresh the 37-year-old Italian denim house.

Tell us about when you first joined Diesel. Were you at all daunted?

Taking over at Diesel was a bit scary but I loved the challenge. I didn’t change much when I joined; I just ocussed on some elements—adding here, editing there, and collaborating with the old and new gangs at Diesel to create a new energy for the brand. Our first project was Diesel Reboot. Its aim was to create a smooth transition from what had happened before to rebooting the brand by using its DNA and amazing history to modernise it. It took us two years to build a solid foundation. I’m ready for the next chapter of Diesel’s history.

You’ve mentioned that the team goes on a trip as part of the research for every collection. Where did you go for spring/summer 2016?

We went to LA, to a flea market, and got inspired by a mix of vintage and digital cultures there. Being in nature and the digital world at the same time was the starting point for this collection.

What makes Diesel unique?

We stand for denim and leather. Our craftsmanship is unique and we’ve gained strength from our history, dating back to 1978.

Diesel has always been at the centre of what is cool. What makes our generation special?

The digital generation is all about taking things from here and there and putting it together to make something new. Becoming whoever you want to be is what this generation stands for.

You’re known for your love of art. Which artists are you currently obsessed with?

I love digital artist Doug Abraham (@bessnyc4 on Instagram), who we collaborated with for our Jogg Jeans line. I also find a lot of young artists on Tumblr whose work I admire.

You’ve got strong roots in Japan. How has it influenced your aesthetic?

I was born in Japan, where technology and tradition are at the same level—they coexist. That’s how I imagine India to be as well—some strong traditional and futuristic technologies, and new media, all coexisting at the same level.

You’re active on Snapchat and other social media. Why is that important?

Social media is a big part of everyone’s life so naturally brands are going to use it as well. But you also need to balance online with reality and not forget to disconnect sometimes, lift your head and look around. Our latest SS16 campaign is a reflection of digital culture—its sometimes absurd behaviour with hashtags and how emojis is becoming a new universal language. It’s fascinating.

What was it like working with Lady Gaga?

It was a crazy experience; probably the most fun thing I have ever done. We worked on everything from styling her videos to making outfits for the red carpet. It was inspirational, definitely a milestone in my career.

What’s your advice to young designers?

Learn who you are; don’t be afraid to be different. Learn business aspects too—creativity and commerce go together.

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