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Digital is now more real than reality

For almost a decade, no one has been more in tune with the now than Nicola Formichetti. After masterminding the early iconography of Lady Gaga and creating a tsunami-like buzz at Mugler, the 38 year old, Japanese creative director, was snatched by Diesel in 2014 to take reigns of the brand known to many of us as the epitome of youth and cool. Always staying neither one, nor two, but three steps forward, he’s envisioned a new campaign using emojis, which, according to him, is the “new Esperanto, a universal language which is understood by millions.” The campaign was shot by photography duo Santiago & Mauricio and will debut on porn sites. With the witty slogan “Can’t stop retouching myself”, we probably won’t either.

We had a chat with Nicola at the Diesel’s campaign launch party during London Collections: Men.

Why London to present the new campaign?

For me, London is still the coolest city.

In the world? 

I think so. But also Tokyo… and London. All the cool kids are here. Initially, Diesel wanted to launch in every fucking city and I was like “No, that’s crazy.”

You didn’t want to travel. 

No! (laughs) It’s great that it’s during London Fashion Week. It’s the first shows in January, so it’s the perfect timing. I love to come here and meet all of my friends.


Tell us the main concept of the campaign.

It’s a continuation from last season where we started to dissect the culture and I wanted to be transparent and honest. This season, we are dissecting digital culture. We love and hate social media at the same time. I wanted to portray that.

The campaign features Joe Jonas and his group DNCE, Kiko Mizuhara, Sara Cummings, Sang Woo Kim, Trevor Signorino and Stav Strashko. What does someone need to have to become a face for Diesel? 

Every time that I start casting, I start talking to people around me to see who’s cool, who’s interesting… I always want to capture what’s happening. It’s very important that I portray the world: they all need to come in different sizes, cultures, races, sexuality, all of that. That’s the starting point, and then I start narrowing the options.

Do you use social networks to find them?

Yeah. I mean, what else would I do? I don’t talk to casting directors. Phone a modeling agency? You can just check online. I talk to people, see what they like. It’s very organic. Since the Dazed years, I’ve always been like “Oh, you look cool…” We have two celebrities, Joe Jonas and Kiko, but they are my friends, they are celebrities, but I love them as people. Stav is amazing; she’s a girl on the inside, but she doesn’t want to transition to a girl, she’s very comfortable with being a boy. And why not? It’s great!


The campaign is inspired by the digital culture and our online/offline behaviour. You were one of the first ones to create a campaign around this concept. Where did you get the idea of doing this? 

I hate it and love it. You’re always scrolling and swiping left, trying to find a friend or a boyfriend or girlfriend and you never meet anyone. It’s this continuation of a crazy saga. And I thought, “why not?” We also created our own emojis. It’s our new universal language that Spanish or Japanese people can understand. I love that.

What’s your favorite emoji? 





Do you spend a lot of time online?

[Sarcastically] No. [Laughs] Yes, I do.

How many social networks do you use and what’s your favorite?

I’m bored of Instagram. I’m so official and my family follows me and I’m like “What??” I still use Facebook because all of the older generations still use it. I’m obsessed with Snapchat. It’s the one. It’s so amazing, you get to see everyone. I got it when it started, a long time ago, and I couldn’t figure it out but now I’m like “whoa, it’s so cool.” You should try it.

“Digital is now more real than reality.” Is this a bad thing?

Maybe. Maybe it’s a bad thing. I wish people were more considerate in reality than just in front of the camera. But also, at the same time, people dress up to be in front of the camera and that’s a good thing. I love it and I hate it.


How do you pick the moments of your personal life that you share?

I share everything!

There are no boundaries? 

No! They are the ones that are not putting it. I wanna share everything. That’s why I like snapchat because you can go a little more crazy. It’s amazing how many crazy stuff I can get on snapchat.

I can only imagine. 

Oh my God! Maybe I don’t show everything because I want to keep some private moments. Sometimes you want to share something boring, or you are in a holiday and if it’s rainy, you’re never gonna shoot that. You want people to think that you’re on a sunny beach, but if it’s rainy, you don’t show that.

Any self-censorship?

Like what? Self-Censorship? What does that mean?

Like “Oh, I’m not showing this or that”.

[Sarcastically] Of course, totally edited and art directed, of course.  


Diesel always had some of the most controversial and provocative campaigns. How do you keep up with that?

It’s a different era now. In the 80s and 90s it was much easier to do very provocative campaigns, because you didn’t have to show the products that much. Today, it’s different. I still need to be premium and show the product, but also doing interesting things. It’s harder. My favorite photographer of that time is Olivier Toscani, he used to do the Benetton ads. He used all the different racial colors, someone dying of AIDS with the Benetton logo or a bird covered in oil with the Benetton logo. It was genius and we can’t be that crazy today. But, online, we can do much, more fun stuff. It’s a bit of both. To keep up, I try my best to be commercial and not too threatening.

Diesel underwear campaign will play on the most important porn sites in the world, PornHub and YouPorn. How did you come up with this idea? Do you watch a lot of porn?

[Sarcastically] I’ve never been on a porn site. Ever! [Laughs] I was thinking, “Ok, this campaign is about digital culture and I want to go to websites or apps where people go.” And I kept thinking, “What is the most viewed website in the whole world?” And I was like, “Porn sites!” I asked some of my colleagues and they were like “No!!!” But I did it, anyways.


You didn’t answer my question, do you watch a lot of porn?

Not a lot. Yeah… maybe a little bit. [Laugh]

I know you’re a big fan of House Of Cards and there’s a quote I love from Frank Underwood: “A great man once said, everything is about sex. Except sex. Sex is about power.” Do you agree? 

Yes. I love that. I love to play with power during sex. No comment. I’ve already said crazy stuff.


You’ve been Diesel Creative Director for almost 3 years now. Is it hard for a creative person like you to get your ideas done in a big brand like Diesel? Do you have total freedom?

Yeah, all the stuff that I’ve learned in the past year, I get to use it now. There are so many things to work on, from collection to marketing to stores, online. It’s a giant thing. But, the last two, three years was building the foundation; meeting people, bringing cool people with me and creating an army. Now I feel like it’s time to go outside. This is nothing to what I want to do. I wanna go super big and crazy. This is a starting point.


Any future projects you want to tell us about?

I’m gonna start doing fashion shows for Diesel. Big events. Events, events, events.

The final question: According to you, what is really FUCKING YOUNG!?

To be FUCKING YOUNG! is to be really true to yourself and not scared of who you are. I love that. [Laughs]


Thanks to Diesel, Nicola Formichetti, Andrew Armstrong, Pedro Barrios, Miguel Figueroa.