Positivity, respect and inspiration that’s what Nicola Formichetti spreads out from his person, through his fascinating communication skills. He embraced Renzo Rosso’s philosophy and Diesel did the same with its new creative director. Nicola Formichetti is the spirit of the contemporaneous conception of fashion: be aware of what is happening around you, be aware of where you are and how you can represent your mission. In a word, eclectic, but always authentic to yourself. Diesel is the perfect environment to frame this new era both for the industry and for Nicola Formichetti too, which explains: “I love to do so many things, the crazy thing is that I haven’t even started to do all the things that I want to do. For now I am very dedicated here and I am super excited about that. It’s the first time in my life that I am quite dedicated exclusively to one thing in a heavy way”.
I’d like to start by talking about “street faces”. You did a huge job on the Internet, discovering new people that reflect the idea of communication you want to spread. What is the positive value of an unknown face rather than a professional model, from your point of view?
I am just trying to portray what Diesel is. I am not saying, by doing street casting, that models are bad. Models are like amazing human beings and fashion is based on them. With Diesel we have to cover a lot of different kinds of people and I think that by using unexpected faces, it opens people up, because it’s nice to see a lot of different varieties. It’s crazy that we are still talking about people’s shapes and complexion; I think that today everyone should be looking at people around and professional models. I think it’s normal, but of course it’s not, because some people are not ready to see realistic things on the covers of magazines, maybe they still want to get inspired and live a dream. This attitude of using perfection in aesthetic belongs to people who are using fear tactics, which is a very traditional way in high fashion. It’s a craving, because you’re looking at something that you can’t achieve. It’s based on fear and I don’t really believe in that. I believe in smiles and positivity, something that people can relate to. It’s more democratic and I think I really didn’t use it before, because I was more into high fashion, but with Diesel it is the perfect occasion to do that. Moreover it’s always good to promote positivity rather than negativity. If you are in a good mood, you are going to live in a good mood. It is contagious.
In terms of advertising, Diesel has always put a lot of effort into campaigns, trying to portray a lifestyle through an ironic atmosphere and even smart and catchy claims. Do you think that today’s campaigns are more useful to sell products in the stores or to display a lifestyle?
Nowadays we have to consider even social media within this big issue of campaigns. For instance, I am so excited to be commissioning really good photographers to shoot for our Instagram account. Even last year, that was totally unheard of, who thought that we will be commissioning proper photographers for our Tumblr page or Instagram? It is incredible. So the idea of advertising has expanded and social media is a big part of that. And also our official website, where we publish all the billboards and magazines is part of that, as well as TV or association with celebrities. All these marketing tools that are in continuous change are really important for a brand that has to find new ways of communicating. Of course in the end you are going to sell your products, but people are not stupid. If you show them just the product they would ask themselves why do they need to buy it. You have to show them what you stand for, what you believe in and maybe some new way to see that product, because you just want people to believe in you. I’ve been here for a year and a half now, and it’s been a really interesting journey for me as well. Before, I used to be really quick and spontaneous. Still I am, obviously, but Diesel is such a big beast and finally we are in this position where we can do something really incredible spreading all over the world. It’s almost like a fire. Just in a year, there were so many things that I had to do, that I couldn’t look at all these other things and I think it’s nice that I am evolving without losing the importance of doing something crazy as well. Sometimes if you know too much you are too scared. I feel that I am much more confident and positive now, so I can do something really incredible.
Is it still possible to give out a proper lifestyle as a brand? And how would you describe Diesel’s lifestyle?
We are in a really crazy moment. The history that Renzo has created is something very rebellious. Doing crazy marketing, lots of treatment on denim and the brand itself has become much more global. It lost the edge, so now I am trying to kind of fix all those parts. We started to gather similar minded people especially online, which was the easiest place to consult and gather a team. Basically the first year for me was all about the reboot, was all about creating this new tribe and what I believe that Diesel should be in the future. Which is kind of the same thing that Renzo started, a kind of rebellion. However, nowadays to be rebellious is not so rebellious anymore. Actually, for me, to be nice, is much more punk than to be upset with everyone. You want to be different but within your gang. Before there was a sort of central government or system that you want to go against, but now there’s just no rebelling anymore. So, for me, it’s just finding the tribe, creating your own subculture. We use creativity as our weapon and trough that we find our team. Now we are basically trying to display messages all around the world about this new idea that we want to portray. We are in a transitioning moment, it’s amazing because everyone knows about Diesel, but they just don’t know what we really stand for anymore and why do they need to go to our stores to buy our clothes. We just have to clean the palette, to clean all these things that happened by becoming very global.
You are making an amazing job with Diesel, because it transmits a respectful attitude towards the spirit of the brand, but with a recognizable twist. I could say that is a perfect example of a meeting point between a singular personality and a team reality. How do you manage to coordinate individuality and team working?
I am very much a collaborator, I am not a dictator. From what I do here, when I design a collection, when I work on a image and so on, it’s all about collaboration. It’s very much team work. I have always done this, even before. It’s more fun. Maybe, at the beginning of my career, I was more one dimensional, as I was trying to prove lots of things, but now, if we can share our creative process, it’s the most beautiful thing we can do.
Would you define your attitude towards your work as a form of love?
Definitely. I don’t think that this is just work. I love what I do, that’s why I can keep doing it and that’s why I can manage a back-to-back crazy work schedule, crazy hours, because I love it. When we start thinking that this is just work, we get bored. Until now it didn’t happen. Renzo thinks exactly the same. We are so passionate, it’s a really beautiful family here, I love it. I finally feel that I can do all the stuff that I know, but in one place.
The word love and all its aspects are such a tricky subject. I think that all of us have a personal way to live and consider something, as a love relationship and it can’t be judged at all by anyone. May I ask you which is the deepest form of love that you know?
A love that you can detach from. For me, the most secret love is something much more like a mother love. A mother loves a son or a daughter so much that she knows when to detach from that. In a way, that’s what my mom did. I thought my mom hated me when she sent me to boarding school in England. But now I realized she did it for me. Of course she wanted to be with me all the time, but she let me go somewhere that was just good for me. Love is bigger than being passionate. Love is something that you can look at from far away, something that is very universal. In the end, everything comes always down to love. Every situation, every problem, everything we do, it all comes down to love. I started thinking stuff like that recently, because I started meditating. Meditation is all about finding your fears and working on your problems within your meditation moment. There are all these techniques that you can do, but in the end, you just have to find love inside. That’s the purest state of bliss.
And what about anger and hate?
Within love there are different kinds of emotions as likes, hates or whatever you feel. I don’t want to think that hate is bigger than love. It would be terrific.
Inspiration is something that belongs to feelings. A sort of love at first sight, and all the silly excitement that comes with it. Diesel belongs to the street and moreover inspiration might come from the street too. What is your approach with people surrounding us in terms of research?
I love people-watching, on the streets or even online and in general I observe the world we are living in. I think that what we do as creatives is the reflection of what is happening around us. Before, when I was working for high fashion, I couldn’t look a lot at the streets, because it should be much more like creating something new. With Diesel we have to be together with the people, we should react to the world as well, so it’s really important to get inspired by the streets. That’s why I travel a lot, it’s one of my pure inspiration sources.
Sometimes I have the feeling that young people wear pieces of clothing without being aware of what they are wearing. It might be fascinating in a way, but alarming from another. Do you think that today real subcultures still exist?
I think that the meaning of subculture is probably different today. In the past, the real subcultures were much more about wearing the same things, listening to the same music and respecting a sort of uniform. You had to have that cap, you had to have that bike and so on, because you want to be part of your gang. Now, from my point of view, everything is digitalized. Before it was so difficult to find information, so magazines became a form of information for subcultures too, because in magazines you have clothes, music, clubs, shops. That’s why I moved to London, because I was reading “The Face” and I wanted to be part of that moment. Now you can google everything. I don’t know if it’s good or bad. It’s great that you have all this information out there that you can learn from, but, are you really going to learn it? Are you really going to learn what something means? It interests me a lot. Everything is just boundless and becomes very marginalized and too available. I talked a lot to super young kids, ten, eleven, twelve years old. They are amazing, because they were born with technology. The amazing thing is that this new generation do not care about followers anymore. We care about followers, but not them. They think “why do I have to have 100 likes, I’d rather have five good likes”. In a way, they are creating their own private subculture and preserving it. They are trying to be private in this non private world.
In terms of style, do you have a favourite subculture through history?
I love the rebels and of course the rockers, from Japanese rockers to Swiss, German and all their evolution from the ‘50s on. Their look is amazing and I find them super sexy. Obviously I love authentic punks from London and not the fashion punks. Moreover, I truly love Japanese subcultures. My favourite are the Shibuya girls. These girls are all inspired from Hawaii and Los Angeles. They customize their school uniform, they tan, they really care about hair styling. They are really cool to me. Every Sunday they meet at the Harajuku Station in Tokyo and they gather, mumbling around. They are just amazing.
You really are into young culture. What do you think about young people in fashion schools?
I am really into school system, because school can change the entire industry. For instance, I had the chance to know methods used in London, Antwerp, Japan too and I really respect them. I know so many tricks concerning the fashion field, because I went straight into the industry without attending a school. I have to say that it was just a mess. I can say that I have this knowledge of “what not to do”. Sometimes it’s good to make mistakes, you’ll learn a lot from them, but you also have to be prepared to avoid them. Having a guide that can infuse tools, culture and tricks is just amazing for young people.
If I ask you to fill the so-called profession box in your curriculum vitae, what would you write down?
Well, creator sounds too pretentious. Designer? I am not a designer, I do lots of other things. Stylist? I am not just a stylist anymore and I am not an art director. I guess the solution would be to write down “nothing”.
MARIE SOPHIE WILSON-CARR
Marie Sophie Wilson-Carr gives you the feeling of an aware and wise happiness. She has lived an amazing life, surrounded by music, images and pet rats. She is a punk rocker in her mind and a unique model in her physique. She takes her life as a voyage in order to get to experience things and always keeps her own opinion clear, without being scared of expressing it. Marie Sophie was in her twenties when she was pictured in a fashion magazine for the first time. In that period she was an astonishing tomboy, while on the pages of that magazine she had been dressed in a bridal gown and saw her girlish aesthetic for the very first time. She remembers that period sincerely by saying: “I never wore make up, I was more busy with clubbing life, listening to music and going to concerts. Basically that was me and probably still what I am”.
If I ask you to choose one word to describe today’s fashion and one for the period that belongs to your golden age as a model, would you choose the same word or not?
For sure, from my point of view, the description wouldn’t be the same at all. In my days fashion was exciting, creative and very arty. Nowadays I feel it’s dictated by companies who bought designers and designers’ houses. Moreover it is also dictated by so called celebrities. It is believed that as soon as these “famous people” wear something, immediately it is going to be a trend and I can’t stand that. I find celebrities very vulgar. In the end I would say that before it was exciting and creative, now it’s a money business. Compared to the period when I was younger, most of the designers now can’t make a pattern, can’t cut clothes and can’t sell them. There are really few designers left who are able to do these things and dare too. I am opinionated and I have always been, so I am not going to say things like “it’s great” or “wow it’s amazing”, because that’s not me. So, now I find fashion really sad. It’s just business.
Do you remember the first time that you saw yourself in a magazine? What was the first thought that came to your mind?
I started to work in Italy; I went to Milan with a small suitcase and my pet rat. It was quite hard at the beginning. My first pictures that came out were for “Vogue Sposa”. It was weird for me to see myself over those pages, because it was the first time that I saw myself as a girl. I was a tomboy, I never wore make up or a dress before. It was strange, but it was ok, because it was me, me as a girl. I didn’t know the fact that I was a girl, because I never looked at myself in the mirror as I was into other things. It’s only a few years later that make up artists told me that my eyes weren’t the same color and I had never noticed it. One is blue and the other one is blue with yellow in it, not as big as David Bowie’s, but still noticeable, but, up to that moment, I had never perceived it.
Do you have something that people used to say about your character that bothers you or you don’t agree with?
What people used to say about me, about my physique, didn’t bother me because it was true. I had a crooked nose, bags under my eyes, I have never had beautiful American teeth and people used to say “she is not going to make it”. Well, 30 years later I am still working, with the same nose, bags, teeth and no plastic surgery ever. I will never do plastic surgery; I find it pathetic and disgusting. So, I agree with what people used to say about me because it was truth and fact. I looked quite strange for the time, I guess I still do, but I am photogenic, that’s the thing. A lot of girls in the business are so beautiful, real perfect beauty but, most of the times, the result in picture with them is nothing.
I think that books and good pictures have the same strength, they spread a reaction in the audience, and they build feelings and imagination within us. Through your career as a model, what was your relationship with pictures?
I am in love with photography. During my growth I was really lucky; a single mother who was really into books and literature, as well as music and cinema raised me. I always had a big interest in culture concerning old American, Italian and French movies. There was no photography at home, but the photography images were in my head when I read books or when I listened to music. When I started working as a model I met a lot of people, I travelled a lot and it made it possible for me to go to museums, exhibits, and see photography books in studios. That’s when I started, in my twenties, to have a certain culture about photography. I have been collecting photography for a while now. I don’t have a huge collection, I have a small collection, and it has nothing to do with fashion. I don’t own anything about clothes except for some pictures of myself that photographers gave me. However, I don’t want to put those on the wall, I framed them, but I don’t want to have pictures of me on the wall in my house, it would be a strange thing for me.
What would be your advice if your daughter or son wanted to be a model?
My daughter has done a few pictures with me. She is sixteen now and I told her that in case she wants to make it a career in future, she has to choose her agent very well, because the agent is very important. Moreover, I would say never let anyone treat you like a coat hanger and never let anybody treat you with disrespect. Plus, never work with mediocre designers. It is like saying be wary, because you have to be very strong to be in the fashion business.
You were discovered as a model. If it didn’t happen, what would you be? Did you have a dream that you were trying to follow in that period?
I was a punk rocker and I was in a small band trying to play the drums, very badly I have to say - but now I can play them since I’ve had percussion lessons. I was doing lots of different little jobs to eat, because I had no money at all. I moved to Paris from the north of France, so whatever I would see for my future had something to do with music for sure, but then I went to Milan with my pet rat and, you know, things have changed.
Do you think that we use the same measure of love both for ourselves and for others?
I try to be a good person and I feel like I am.I try to surround myself with good feelings towards people, animals and nature. However, I would say I think more about the others rather than me in a way. I am a Virgo.
From your personal point of view, would you somehow link fashion as form of love or not?
For me it has nothing to do with love, it belongs to creativity.
I think that “good anger” could be energy. Do you think that anger has the same importance as love?
Yes, definitely! If anger drives you to do good things and moves you then it is the same as love. Love makes you cares about things and helps you to achieve goals. Good anger does the same, it gives you energy, you get creative and basically you go ahead.
You describe yourself as a punk rocker. Punk is an attitude and not a trend at all. Which is the most punk event or attitude that you remember within your life?
I think that the most memorable one, because it was so stupid, happened when I was twenty. I was a student in the north of France and I used to move a lot to see gigs. There was this concert in Belgium – at that time everything was happening in Belgium, all the good concerts, all the great British bands were playing in Belgium and it was very close too. I had no money, neither did my friend, so we hitchhiked, we used to do that every time we wanted to go to Belgium. It was a crazy thing to do if I think about it now, because we were hitchhiking at whatever hour and, moreover, we were girls. Anyway, we went to Belgium to see a Bauhaus concert, it was so exciting; it was “the thing” for me at that moment. We arrived at the concert and I don’t even know how we got in, because we didn’t have money. The band was on stage, they were playing the second song of their set list and two friends of mine ware already out of it. They jump on stage because they wanted to sing with Peter Murphy. He got scared because they were huge; moreover, one of them was a skinhead. Well, a big fight started and there was a little security, because at that time it wasn’t like today’s gigs with all the security organization. It ended up with a massive fight with tables broken, everything broken everywhere. We made the band leave because we caused chaos. We were young, punk and stupid, but now I am an old, wise punk, open-minded and with manners. However I think about this story often. Because of that mess, I never got to hear live one of my Bauhaus’ favorite song: Bela Lugosi’s Dead.