Since signing on as Diesel's new artistic director six months back, Nicola Formichetti has been working hard on a much-anticipated "#Reboot" of the Italian denim brand.
He'll present his first full collection next March, but Diesel fans won't have to wait that long for a taste of his forward-thinking aesthetic, now well-meshed with the label's look — a special capsule collection of both men's and womenswear launches next week. It's the "Tribute" line, and a tribute indeed — Formichetti's paying homage to Diesel's design history, having toured factories and "secret" archives extensively for his big and shiny new role.
Accompanying the clothes, an awesome new campaign shot entirely on an iPhone, by renowned fashion photographer Nick Knight. (Formichetti calls him "a fashion god," which really isn't an exaggeration.) Above, BuzzFeed premieres two exclusive photos from the shoot. They are beautiful.
BuzzFeed Fashion spoke with Formichetti about the campaign, his (crazy big) plans for Diesel, and why geek chic is always a big turn on.
BuzzFeed: This "Tribute" campaign seems like a really new spin on fashion imagery. How did it come about?
Formichetti:I always try to push boundaries. In every project, I try to do something new and different. I'm presenting a big collection — my first collection for Diesel — with a fashion show next March, but I thought before that I'd do a little limited-edition capsule line. I made this collection as an homage to Diesel, classic Diesel, before I started. It's a thank you, almost like a love letter. Something sweet for Diesel!
So the inspiration, specifically, came from old-school Diesel designs?
Totally. I went through all the [Diesel] archives and factories, found all these amazing old patches and scraps and so I made this little collection only using denim and leather. Really sweet pieces. So I'm thinking to myself, how can I show this off in a new way? Well, maybe I can do something purely online. I want to get straight to the Diesel consumer; I want to be experimental. I said, OK, let's just shoot the whole fucking thing on an iPhone. I had been talking with Nick [Knight] about another project, but I thought I had it would be perfect to ask Nick, who's the most genius fashion photographer, to do something that me or you can do at the same time, you know. Normally you have all this mystery behind the [fashion] image, right? How do we get there? How do we create these beautiful images that you see in magazines? But Nick is so confident — he said sure, let's use an iPhone. And we just chose a couple of apps that we like. One is called Glitch, and the other is called Megaphoto. We just took the photos and [edited them] with those apps. In a way, we're telling people, you can do this yourself as well. I love the fact that anyone can do this. Maybe next season we'll find some great young kid to shoot this, because we've seen his shots on Tumblr or something.
What sort of response are you hoping for — or expecting — from the fashion establishment?
I think we're going to piss off lots of people, because I feel like it's a real shift in creating advertisement. From Nick's shoot, we have thousands of thousands of pictures —with the iPhone he just kept shooting. And it's instantaneous; you see all the pictures there on screen [as they happen]. You can edit, you can make GIFs straight away. You can make GIFs straight away, right. Now I feel like going back to the traditional way of shooting an ad would feel so old. So from now until mid-November [when the Tribute collection launches] we're going to basically bomb the Internet, bomb social media with these photos, GIFs, and videos.
Formichetti:There'll be specific photos for Instagram, specific pictures for Tumblr. Specific photos for Twitter — you name it, because the format has changed. When you see a fashion image, it's normally a vertical photo — because we've adopted the magazines' style. But now, because we're only shooting for digital, it doesn't really matter. Instead, our photos are either square or kind of elongated, horizontally, because that's much more friendly when you see it on the computer. It's really refreshing for Nick or for me just to look at an image in a square format, because we're so used to that long vertical photo format. Now, the flipping and cropping is different and, for instance it's much easier to produce a group shoot on a square. You can fit in more people, literally.
So how about the concept behind the "Tribute" shoot. How did that come together specifically?
My initial idea was selfies, right? I wanted people to buy the clothes and shoot a selfie — and put a #Diesel hashtag in the selfie. I love the way that different people have different style ideas, and it's very inspiring for me to to see how other people how you wear stuff. And then it all kind of got a little abstract… and a little crazy.
And how do you go about finding the coolest-of-the-cool cool kids to shoot?
I'm very organic when it comes to casting. I always have a file or a folder on my computer and on my phone filled with people that I love, the locals I've met [in whatever city I was just in], cool kids that I saw on Tumblr, Facebook. A few weeks before a shoot, that's how I always start my casting. And our main campaign Diesel, the Reboot campaign, that was [composed of] people mostly found on Tumblr. My [campaign stars] feel like a new Diesel Army in a way, people who are confident in themselves, and they just don't care what people think.
Ads from the fall/winter 2013 Diesel "Reboot" campaign.
So it's more about creating the right vibe than embodying the right look?
Well, because I wanted to make this campaign purely digital, one of the characters had to be a performer. I wanted this person to move and, you know, put on a show. Wow, I thought, Mykki Blanco would be great. Mykki has a male and a female persona, and he's amazing. You'll see, we're going to start putting up his mini-performances on Instagram. It's pure art. Mykki's great.
We have this great Japanese girl who I love; I flew her in for the shoot. She's just this beautiful girl I found in Tokyo. What's crazy, though, is that she doesn't speak a word of English. I speak Japanese so I was fine to translate, but Nick Knight [trying to talk] to her was wild. There's this kid Josh, he's from Birmingham, and he's just got loads of tattoos. He's so cool. I think it was his first time modeling; he was so real. And there were also drag queens. It's cool to have this sense of diversity, and spontaneity. I thought, let's all just get together in a studio and see what happens. It felt almost like an art studio. In fact, we got really inspired by Basquiat, Andy Warhol, art collectives. Creatives types are my new heroes. The geeks and the creatives are the new icons, you know. That's really what I believe. And I think it's sexy. If I meet someone who's really into social media and all this tech stuff, I think it's sexy. It's a new kind of sexy and I think Diesel can really tap into that. That's what the kids want now, right? They want to be followed and, you know, liked. And we want to help with that.
This is Josh, FYI.
Were you ever worried you'd get your creativity stifled at a big brand like Diesel? That you couldn't go balls to the wall crazy whenever you felt like it, basically?
I haven't had any problems, none at all! [Diesel CEO] Renzo Rosso had been talking for a couple of years. To be free and creative, that was not an issue —because Renzo, he's crazy. When we get together, the ideas are just completely insane. Renzo says, OK you come up with all these crazy ideas, let's make it happen. Let's make it into a reality. Yeah, Renzo is like that. Sometime I'll come up with something and he's like, you can do crazier than that. I love that. He's totally my partner in crime. We have no limits. I feel like now have a machine behind me and I think that's pretty cool.
Even for an industry that prides itself on new things all the time, this feels like big changes.
You know, I am a 'fashion person.' I've worked [in the industry] for a long time… but sometimes these people are crazy. They live with fear, constantly, and they don't want to be fat and they care too much what people think, and it's really not healthy. And that's why I love working with Diesel, because the people here are not like that. It's really refreshing for me. They're very sweet people. And I don't want to bring them back into the mainstream fashion world. Why would I bring Diesel into that? Suddenly we're forced to show stuff four times a year, men's fashion shows, women's fashion shows… that just feels so old.
Diesel's going to be its own little fashion island, then, from now on?
I think we're going to create our own language, our own rules. We're just going to do it, whatever it is, create it and just put it out there. I think that's how Diesel can break rules. If I come up with something new here I'll just put it out there. It becomes kind of a constant roller coaster. In fact, this show that we're going to do in March is going to be completely different, completely new. A big event, you know. I want to do it outside of Fashion Week. I want to show it somewhere that's not Paris, not London, not Milan. Renzo and I are talking about what we can do in a new way. An exciting way. If people want to follow, great. If they don't, who cares. Their loss.
Images from the "Tribute" campaign will start popping up on social media later this week.
Look for them on Diesel's Tumblr page, for starters.
The capsule collection will debut in stores and online on November 4th (it all looks awesome, but the underwear is a particular highlight) and there'll be a special meet-and-greet session with Formichetti at Diesel's store in Covent Garden, Central London on November 8th, from 6—8 p.m.