LONDON — Nicola Formichetti led the audience at WWD’s Digital Forum here on a romp through his digital wonderland, discussing the future of socializing, his latest music loves, and why it’s healthy sometimes to pull the plug and detox from digital.

The artistic director of Diesel, who recruits his staffers on Twitter — no CV necessary for this employer — finds artists and photographers on Instagram, and sings the praises of Periscope, the live-streaming app, relishes his life online.

It was Lady Gaga, he said, who pushed him into the social media limelight, although it was hard at first to cope with the constant – and sometimes brutal — engagement.

“When I was working with her, she was always on Twitter, talking to her fans. Like really talking to her fans online. I thought that was so beautiful. It was love, just pure love, the artist and fans, connecting. She kind of got me into Twitter. She kind of pushed me into the limelight in a way I hated in the beginning because, suddenly, I became like a product. People can make comments, they can bitch, so it was very hard at the very beginning. But then you meet your real fans online, and that’s really, really important and it’s special,” he said.

Formichetti also talked about his past campaigns for Diesel, which were aimed at creating an online community, and about his brainchild, Nicopanda.

“I created this character called Nicopanda, which is kind of like my manga avatar character, a couple of years ago and it was purely just to create cheap souvenirs for my fans. I was making T-shirts and selling them online and doing pop-up stores and things like that,” he said. “I’m half Japanese and half Italian, so this is all my Japanese side that I do on the weekend.”

Formichetti’s original black-and-white panda, which first appeared on Tumblr, later morphed into a collective project after he asked users and fans to create their own versions of the panda bear.
“When we start making the products, we share the fees and things like that. It’s all, like, very inclusive. And that’s why I love digital because you can just really, really reach out to the world. Except China. In China, you can do it, but you have to speak their language,” he said.

He’s taking Nicopanda more seriously now that it’s in stores. “It became, like, a proper fashion brand so you can buy it in Selfridges,” he said.

Digital is a way of life, although Formichetti admits he still has a lot to learn, and that he sometimes needs to peel his eyeballs away from the screen. He said he’s still getting to grips with Snapchat but likes playing with Periscope and Meerkat, another live streaming app. “It’s crazy how you can just live stream. I can just go on it right now, and people can watch you guys. So scary,” he told the audience.

He said he looks to children to help him navigate the future.

“The best people using social media are the kids who are 10, 11, 12 — who were born with everything. They’re like my teachers. They all want to be private. For them, having more likes or followers is not cool because now you can buy followers and likes. It is cooler to have likes from your friends than from any random person on the planet. They are creating their own subcultures by keeping it very, very small. I think that’s quite refreshing,” he said.

Formichetti is also in favor of unplugging every now and again.

“I want to do it once a month, but that’s kind of crazy. I do it once a year now,” he said, describing one of his experiences. “I switched off and went somewhere in the mountains and took my phone away and no computer for ten days. The first two days, you’re twitching, going crazy but then you realize after a few days that everything is fine. No one really wants you. It’s not that important. The world still goes. It’s amazing and then you can come back completely refreshed. I really, really recommend it. Even just doing it on the weekends for a bit, like Sundays or something. Just don’t look at anything. Just read a book — or meditate.”

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