Hero : Nicola Formichetti 

The Diesel mastermind on “pushing the frontier of fashion”

Diesel SS17
Photography Lucie Rox

Making it as a young designer gets harder every year. Crowded and competitive pools of talent, skyrocketing production costs and looming issues like Brexit all add up to an increasingly difficult formula for fashion’s next wave. This week, HERO comes to you from ITS festival in Trieste, Italy, an emerging designer platform helping rise up the next generation of fashion designers.

Short for International Talent Support and sponsored by Diesel, ITS festival has been nurturing young talent for fifteen years now. Pulling together big name industry professionals, it spotlights – and supports – the next generation of designers shaping the future of fashion with a catwalk and award ceremony.

We spoke with Nicola Formichetti, Diesel’s formidable creative director who first cut his teeth way back when at London’s infamous Soho retailer The Pineal Eye. Now at the centre of the industry and lauded for his innovations in fashion direction, Formichetti here talks young design talent and pushing the frontiers of fashion.

So can you give me a bit of a run down, what does your role as creative director of Diesel entail?
I oversee all aspects of Diesel, this includes design, marketing, digital and retail – it’s really fascinating to orchestrate, because you can really ensure that everything is totally coherent. It gives you great energy and it makes use of my entire skill base, which I’ve used separately until now. A typical day for me involves meeting after meeting after meeting. Then more meetings, and did I mention meetings?

Can we talk a bit about the latest Diesel collection?
The FW16 collection is arriving in stores very gradually at the moment, we went through the building blocks of the brand; rock, denim, military, sport and decided to bring a new-high-energy-flavour to every piece. There’s a strong 90s feel throughout the collection too, which is definitely a nod to my generation and something I feel the younger generation has embraced too.

The latest campaign, ‘Tell it like it is’ continues with our humorous and honest approach to advertising. It’s a follow up to FW15, which decoded fashion imagery, and SS16, which was about social media and the digital world. This season we are deconstructing the industry’s joyful yet absurd behaviour with a no non-sense campaign shot by photographers Santiago & Mauricio. I wanted to shoot beautiful and impactful images, where the product is celebrated but with a twist on traditional advertising. It’s really important for us to continue the visual language we started with the FW15 campaign and build on the connectivity it created with our audience.

What are your thoughts on Diesel’s partnership with ITS festival?
Diesel strives to help the next generation of young creatives because they’re the ones who we are going to work with and who will probably take our place when they are ready. I can also see a very personal parallel to my own story, of when Renzo Rosso contacted me to take over Diesel – it was a really strong signal of what his philosophy is and that of the OTB group.

Contests like ITS are so important for the industry; they provide great opportunities for the graduates, they help us at the houses find new people to collaborate with and aid the press in discovering a new talent. It’s really important that these initiatives continue, and there are many different ways of doing it, we also work directly with schools such as the Aalto University in Helsinki, for example.

What advice would you give young designers who are trying to break into the fashion world?
I think it’s about being in love with what you do and to keep on doing it no matter what. Perseverance is key. You shouldn’t think about fame or having lots of followers or likes, this won’t change your world, it helps but that will all come after. First it’s about what you put into the work…and make it your own.

What are the debates in fashion that you are most concerned with?
Of course we look around us and we consider a lot of issues; Renzo was in Copenhagen recently giving a talk about what a company can do in terms of social engagement as sustainability. We also have the OTB Foundation, which provides funding to build school in Africa. Personally, I have always been about celebrating racial diversity and blurring the boundaries of gender, which is a common thread that runs throughout Diesel too. For me, it’s about pushing the frontier of fashion and that’s something Diesel has been doing for as long as it’s been around with incredible campaigns like David Lachapelle’s sailors kissing in 1995.

Nicola Formichetti by Nazanin Shahnavaz for Hero Magazine