Interview by Christopher Blomquist

Stylist, designer, DJ – Nicola Formichetti is considered a fashion multitalent and one of the business’s most enigmatic personalities. Having styled famous celebs such as Lady Gaga and engagements at mass retailer Uniqlo as well as fashion house Thierry Mugler the Italo-Japanese lives his passion for denim being Creative Director for Diesel since more than two years now. Days after launching its new boutique-like store concept in New York, he sat down in it to discuss the retail revamp, but also his views on fashion and the digital world.

Diesel fall/winter 2016-17
Diesel fall/winter 2016-17
You have been Diesel’s creative director for more than two years now. Are you still in the process of rebooting the brand?
Yeah, but we are almost there. This store represents a very long study with the new people in the company to symbolize the next chapter of Diesel. We are not completely abandoning what it was. It still feels cozy and Diesel-like but with a slight refinement and upscaling a little bit. We don’t want to be a high fashion, avant-garde brand. We are a big brand and we want to appeal to a bigger audience but with a touch of Diesel-ness, which is something that is a little bit quirky or unique. We want to be the coolest of the biggest. We came up with this motto a few months ago and I love that.

How much of your influence is visible in the new Diesel?
I work on everything–absolutely everything– from the collection, visuals, stores, marketing to visual merchandising to product detailing and product concept. For me it was very important to keep the DNA of Diesel in all the stuff that I do and rather than re-create things I wanted to take the DNA and modernize it. So all I am doing is updating all the stuff that we have.

What currently inspires you?
At the moment I get really inspired by the digital culture. In fact, the campaign I just shot a couple of weeks ago that is going to come out in January was very much inspired by the digital culture and the love and hate of digital culture. I’m always on Snapchat and Instragram and live streaming. We love it but at the same time you remember the time when we didn’t have all that and we worked perfectly. So it’s the idea of appreciating the past more and more now rather than everything about likes and followers.

Do you think no-gender is a topic in fashion right now?
Yes. I love that we are all talking about gender at the moment–it is not a new topic, but it’s now a global newsworthy topic that reaches out to everyone.

Why has no-gender-fashion gained such relevance right now?
For the young generation there is no such border anymore, so this generation never thought the gender to be strictly separated and they have a more fluid approach to it–it’s all one thing. So mainstream media are picking on it now, but the subject has always been relevant, it was limited to militant, activist and intellectual groups but now the conversation about gender is available to everyone and that’s a really good thing!

Do you think, no-genderfashion has the power to become mainstream?
I hope so. I think in a way it already is. The younger generation already shops within both gender sections in stores or online, depending on what style makes them feel at ease or just purely because of they like the item whatever the gender it was supposedly designed for. This process will for sure be more and more accepted when this generation grows up and the one after and so on.

Creative Director of Diesel Nicola Formichetti
Creative Director of Diesel Nicola Formichetti

Will you include no-gender fashion in your next collection?
Of course! Diesel is about celebrating individuality and difference! And we want to accommodate everyone with our collection. Diesel really is about being inclusive and welcoming.

The collections are significantly smaller than what they were back in the day and much more tightly edited…
Yeah. That’s why I love the size of the store. It’s more of a boutique-y feeling. Normally we were famous for those enormous blockbuster stores with everything in them. We are not a high street brand and maybe that was OK in the ’90s but in the 2000s where we want to go is to be a little more intimate so people can go and shop in a much more personal way so hence we’re keeping this space and collection a little more refined.

How are you specifically attracting new, younger customers?
We need to be relevant and we need to speak their language. When we do the advertisement I just shot it speaks their language. Diesel was always famous for its marketing and advertisements, this kind of impactful visuals where you talk about culture. And that’s where I am going. I want to talk about what is happening in the world today through digital culture. We do a lot of activation online through Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat and all that.

And you do stuff on Tinder too, right?
Yeah. And we are going to go into Grindr as well next season. It’s just having fun. I love magazines and come from the magazine world and that is never going to go away but we are going to put much more attention to digital than ever before. When I joined I remember that we had nobody working on digital at Diesel. Maybe one person and he was kind of a tech guy. That was two years ago and since I joined we have a huge team in the digital department. We just relaunched diesel.com in September, which is an online experience where you can shop and look at what we are doing and we also launched Diesel Magazine, which I am the editor in chief, and that is going to start in January.

Diesel fall/winter 2016-17
Diesel fall/winter 2016-17
How would you define or characterize youth culture today?
It has changed a lot. Before in the ’80s and ’90s when I was younger it was about cliques. You had to dress differently or find something unique to be part of something through radio or TV or magazines and there were different cliques of subcultures. Today there is none of that and it is kind of borderless. You can be into punk and classic literature and art. You can be into anything and you basically just pick and choose what you like. All the youth are very knowledgeable; they know everything but the dangerous side is that they know nothing because they don’t experience it. For them it’s just a click and downloading information. I don’t want to sound old and boring but I want to make an experience through deeper things by creating something that isn’t disposable and you have to explain a little bit more when you do anything.

You have never worked for a big company before. How has it been for you to have to deal with meeting business numbers, etc.?
The thing is that I am half Japanese so I am quite good with numbers. And I love knowing numbers. We have the most amazing CEO, Alessandro Bogliolo, and we work very closely. We want to make Diesel one of the most successful brands on the planet. That’s our mission.

Aside from Diesel, what stores do you find inspiring and where do you shop?
I’m a crazy shopaholic a little bit. No one knows this but I actually never shopped online until this weekend. I’m always about digital culture but I actually never ever shopped online for myself because I have to experience it and go to the shop and try things on. I was home with friends and my friend convinced me because I had to buy some underwear and socks and jeans and it was raining. So I went to diesel.com and I bought some underwear, some Jogg Jeans, some shirts and a biker jacket and it was so easy. It was click, click, click and it was done. And the next day the clothes arrived. Then it was all downhill from there. I went on eBay, Amazon. I spent crazy time buying crystals and Tom of Finland sculpture and books. I’m like a crazy digital whore now.

What was your first pair of jeans?
I just had a pair of jeans that I bought at a flea market. And I used to do patchwork. Every time it broke I would just put another patch on top so my jeans were remade with different patches. It was so cool.

How do you approach designing denim today?
Men and women are different and I approach them in a different way. For men we have so many styles and treatments so it is very mathematical so it was really just refining that matrix of denim and making it much more user friendly. You have your core item but you push it but still keep it in the world of denim. With women’s it’s completely different. It’s about shape and fittings. They all need to look sexy and hot. The men’s too. I mean Diesel jeans are actually famous for making your dick look bigger or at least that is what customers say. And I think the girls’ about the legs and ass more than ever. But also we have a lot of girls who want to look more tomboyish so we have a lot of boyfriend styles and baggy with looser silhouettes.

Suzy Menkes recently did a story after Raf exited about the great pressure on designers and the lack of time to make great collections. Do you agree?
Yeah. I think specifically high fashion brands are completely overwhelmed. When I did Mugler it was the same. It was shows after shows and you just don’t have time. Renzo [Rosso] gave me two years just to launch this new store. He told me to take my time and be comfortable. Of course I have to work hard too but I also have time to have fun and think twice or even three times.

What aspects of your job do you like best?
I love collaborating. I cannot do this alone so I work with Renzo and all the designers and the CEO. We just have so much fun. We laugh constantly and we fight. We drink wine and get drunk but in the morning we are all there working and I love that. And I love the traveling too. What I don’t like about what I do is that there is never enough time to do everything I want to do. If I could I would be launching three other lines in addition to Diesel. But I am focusing. Last year was all about focus for me and I learned a lot from Renzo and you are going to start seeing it now, starting from the store and all the things that we are going to do next year onward. We’ve created a pretty amazing machine and it’s very exciting.