Diesel Red Tag

MILAN — Renzo Rosso is banking on hot young designer Glenn Martens to conceive an equally sizzling capsule collection for the Diesel Red Tag label.

“Glenn comes from Belgian training, so he has this practical-yet-surreal, Margiela-like sense,” said Rosso, whose group OTB also controls Maison Margiela, Marni, Paula Cademartori, Viktor & Rolf, Staff International and Brave Kid, in addition to Diesel. “But then he’s young and modern, and knows how to appeal to a global, educated consumer, while simultaneously being able to experiment with denim.”

Rosso may be an innovative and unconventional entrepreneur, who breaks with tradition, but he also comes prepared. “He’s been following me for three years, I’ve been told, and watching what I have been doing,” Martens said during an interview ahead of the presentation in Milan, scheduled on June 16. The Belgian designer, who is creative director of the Paris-based Y/Project label, which scooped up the 2017 ANDAM Grand Prize, made fashion fame with his deconstructed denim that can be ruched or folded back to create a wider effect.

“This is a new and fun way to celebrate Diesel, this amazing brand and its 40th anniversary,” Martens said of the Red Tag concept of capsules in collaboration with a series of edgy designers. The first was launched in March in Paris, designed by Shayne Oliver, cofounder of Hood by Air.

Martens said he was given free rein in designing the capsule. “I think it all happened quite naturally for him [Rosso] to celebrate the brand: having young designers, having this new generation that just pops up now to interpret the legendary brand in their own way. I grew up with Diesel, it was one of my big symbols in childhood — it’s great, and an honor for me.”

Martens, who grew up in the Belgian city of Bruges and attended Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, recalled the impression the Diesel campaigns made on him back then, “before the Internet. They were groundbreaking and always challenged society and expectations. I come from a small town and this was not my reality, those campaigns in magazines really changed a generation.”

To wit, Martens asked himself what Diesel stood for and his response was “a rebellious vibe.” Diesel’s “Go With the Flaw” ad campaign launched last year and, celebrating the power of imperfection, served as the starting point of the collection. “It’s a very, very important sentence in the Diesel language, one of their branding logos, one of their slogans. I wanted to go with the flaw, literally, so I wanted the whole collection to be completely wrong and to be full of flaws, with the wrong patterns, to adapt them to yourself and to go with the mistakes. Every single piece has a million ways to wear because of the pattern mistakes.” While conceding that he had worked on “constructive concepts on classic Diesel silhouettes,” with his “personal take on construction and deconstruction,” Martens declined to provide a sketch or details in advance to “keep the suspense” going.

The capsule is not men’s, women’s or unisex, he said. “It’s about personalizing your pieces — denim can become rough and masculine or sexy and feminine.” Comprising around 10 looks, these “are supposed to be very versatile, and really grow on the person,” explained Martens, who has signed on for one capsule. “It’s also a celebration of the different people that can find a home in this brand.”

While Oliver had shown his Red Tag capsule in Paris, Martens said he “really wanted” to be present in Milan. “I felt it was normal to take it back to Milan, as if it were going back to its hometown — there’s even a little celebration of Breganze [Italian town where Diesel is headquartered] in the collection,” he observed.

There will be a campaign dedicated to the capsule, in collaboration with a still-undisclosed artist from The Netherlands.

Asked how he felt about the Red Tag project, Martens said: “Diesel has always been very diverse, and talked to a lot of different kinds of people, so this fits in really well.” Rosso, he added, is “enlightened. I don’t think he ever had a bad idea. He likes the challenges. A lot of people in this industry follow the Instagram likes, and he is still following his guts. It makes it much more relevant and daring.” In December, Diesel parted ways with artistic director Nicola Formichetti after a four-year tenure, as reported, with Rosso now spearheading the brand’s new direction.

The collection will be available starting in November on diesel.com and in concept stores such as L’Eclaireur, Luisa Via Roma, Artifacts and Opening Ceremony, thanks to a collaboration with Tomorrow London Ltd., which is distributing each collection under this initiative.

Retail prices will range from around 350 and 400 euros for denim to 600 euros for pieces with shearling.

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