Nicola Formichetti on Diesel, the digital revolution and Lady Gaga
The artistic director of fashion label Diesel – and stylist for Lady Gaga – is creating human connection through social media.
“Fashion is always crazy," quips Nicola Formichetti. In fact, the 36-year-old is at the source of the hysteria: Lady Gaga’s meat dress, the translucent egg, and those spiky metallic numbers were all in part down to the stylist. Now he has the all-encompassing role of Diesel’s artistic director, which sees him oversee the multi-billion dollar fashion behemoth’s output in its entirety (excluding the Black Gold label which is headed up by Andreas Melbostad). “It’s not like the Eighties and Nineties. You have to know what’s going on in the world and understand the business side, marketing and social media,” says the Italian-Japanese creative. It’s a monumental responsibility but Formichetti sees it as an extension of what he’s been doing since the start of his career at Dazed & Confused magazine. In an exclusive interview with Metro, the arbiter of cool talks about the digital revolution, why rapper Brooke Candy is the next big thing and the circumstances behind his recent drunken tattoo.
How do you intend to revolutionize the digital experience?
Well, I feel like no one has really nailed it yet. I feel like we’re missing something at the moment. Of course it’s an amazing thing to go online shopping. But there’s still a beauty of going to a store and talking to a sales assistant and having that experience – you cannot get that through online shopping. What I want to do at Diesel is create this new and amazing experience that you have in-store but for online. We’re doing lots of testing at the moment but we’re not ready to put anything out there yet.
You recruited models and creatives through social media. What are the benefits?
I’ve always done that because I’m more of a digital person and I don’t like reading CVs because you can lie about it. You can see what they’re like in an instant on Instagram.
Is it just a way of connecting to the brand’s target audience?
When I joined Diesel we created a Tumblr account and we found so many creative people. We collaborated with designers, video directors, photographers, models and now we’re giving jobs to these people. Whereas before it was impossible for these people to get to me — they had to go through the Diesel HQ. I think it’s great that a brand is directly talking to people or future colleagues — it makes everything much more honest. And it’s so beautiful that human connection through digital media for the younger generation – for them it’s almost as real as touching.
What do you mean that fashion isn’t “honest”?
Fashion people are different creatures and I’m a little bit of a fashion creature. Fashion only looks at how you look: skinny, big and hair. I’m interested in that but I’m also interested in the human side.
Why is fashion so reluctant to reflect the diversity of the ‘real world’?
No one likes change, especially big companies. Basically I’m constantly fighting with people’s mentality and I’m the complete opposite. I encourage new ideas: different colors and shapes. I can’t believe we’re still talking about skinny girls being in fashion shows or having one black person. It’s so crazy.
Why does the fashion industry perpetuate these impossible ideals?
We should all be celebrating different body types, ages and colors. It’s how we live and I feel like very old school fashion houses are based on fear and impossible beauty. These super skinny and super elevated models are something that people can’t touch. It makes people want this impossible beauty. It’s a fear tactic. That tactic [used by fashion houses] is old and Eighties. I feel we should be much more positive and inclusive and understand that there are different kinds of people around the world.
People were skeptical about you, as a fashion stylist, working with Gaga. Did you ever consider parting ways?
No. I trusted my instincts and I really loved Gaga and I didn’t care what people thought. But when I started working with her I got lots of shit because it was like, ‘Why are you working with a musician?’ And now you see Rihanna, Beyonce, Katy Perry – everyone is wearing fashion and collaborating with high fashion. I just designed a costume for Beyonce with Diesel for her tour. She’s wearing this denim outfit with a leather cap and when you see your design transformed by a dancing uber-human, it’s an inspiration for customers and Diesel. You see these artists and musicians can transform something into a different world.
You’re now working with rapper Brooke Candy. Can she be as big as Lady Gaga?
Brooke loves dancing (she used to be a pole dancer). For me, she’s the answer for the new generation: she’s making such amazing music and it’s going to blow everyone’s mind. We’re already building ideas for music videos and she’s going to be here for a long time. If Gaga was the queen of Twitter, Brooke could be the queen of Instagram or Tumblr.
Brooke looks like she enjoys a party. Tell me about a night out with Brooke.
Well, I was with her a few days ago in LA and we went crystal shopping – we love stones… we’re quite new age about that. Then we went to a Japanese restaurant and got a bit drunk and we had one of those ‘Let’s go and get a tattoo’ moments. I got a little tattoo that says “Daddy” on my arm and Brooke got a cherry near her pussy.
Anyway, what is about you putting Gaga and Candy in so much leather? Do you have a kinky side?
[Laughs] No! Actually everyone thinks I’m crazy kinky but I just love leather because it’s so sexy on the body. There are so many references to leather from bikers to S&M and it gets more and more beautiful when you keep wearing it, which is quite rare for a material, right? It’s the ultimate tough symbol and it’s one of the three pillars of Diesel’s DNA: denim, leather and military. Next season, I’m going to add sports.