MILAN — The crowd at Diesel show on Wednesday there were 5,000 people at Milan’s Allianz Cloud arena.
It is not easy to fill the stadium, even if the tickets are free. And it wasn’t just the size of the audience that was notable, but the quality as well—reflecting Diesel’s still-recent transformation from outdated designer-denim pioneer to cool fashion brand for the young and hot.
Gen-Z celebrities like Gossip girl actor Evan Mock, were surrounded by rows of students and other young fashionistas dressed as Euphoria characters in candy-colored suits and glittery eye makeup.
Just a few hours later, at the Diesel store near Milan’s Duomo, the event was already being broadcast on giant screens alongside images from the brand’s fall collection by designer Glenn Martin.
Martens’ gaze on Diesel comes back to him the height of the coolness at the beginning of the day, when he was best known for his super-low—and super-dirty—washes, with some iterations looking as if the wearer had been rolling across a field of wet grass, or with rips large enough to expose entire swaths of glistening thigh. His designs harken back to those days of extreme distress, with the silver foil on a €495 ($486) pair of jeans peeling off for style. (Collectibles are mostly priced between €500 and €1,000, slightly higher than the main line, where jeans start at €150.)
Inside the store, fashion kids rummaged around — like one wearing an Ambush sweatshirt — for his sleek €425 racecar-style bags and €795 wrestling belt-style combos. Although many are probably fans of Martens’ work Y/Projectwhere he helped pioneer that rugged yet sexy look of the late 1990s and early 2000s, Diesel is giving it another level of exposure and offering a wider range of consumers access to his designs.
Diesel has always been big business and the engine of the Italian entrepreneur Renzo Rosso’s OTB Group— which also includes Maison Margiela, Marni and Jil Sander — which contributed the largest share of the group’s $1.5 billion in profits last year.
But despite its consistent mass, Diesel’s relevance has waned since the mid-2000s, when its tarnished, worn-out mall look was replaced by cleaner, darker offerings from the likes of J.Brand and later Frame.
Diesel’s attempts to reignite the consumer fire include a four-year partnership with Nicola Farmichetti, Lady Gaga’s collaborator in the 2010s, when the premium denim category and the department stores and malls that championed the category grew. The brand tried with all its might to reverse the trend, and by 2019. its US subsidiary filed for bankruptcy.
Then came Y/Project designer Martens, who was originally tapped for a one-off collaboration as part of the brand’s 2018 “Red Tag” program.
Two years later, in 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic has become particularly difficult for independent designers, Ross convinced Martens to become Diesel’s creative directortasking him with revamping the company’s product offering and image while continuing to develop Y/Project.
The bet on Martens seems to be paying off. While parent company OTB did not break down sales by individual brands, it cited progress in diesel as a key driver of growth in 2021. Sales were up 16 percent year-over-year and remained flat from 2019. That’s not extraordinary given the large sales growth many competitors have seen since the first year of the pandemic, but respectable given the number of unwanted wholesale accounts Diesel has exited as part of its repositioning.
As OTB weighs a potential IPO, Diesel’s continued success under new CEO Eraldo Pollet, who joined in Julywill remain critical to the company’s health.
According to tracking firm Launchmetrics, social media conversation around Diesel is up 69 percent year-over-year. The spikes were attributed to Julia Fox’s Diesel look last February, Nicole Kidman in Diesel on the cover Perfect magazine in August, and increasing the number of influential places.
Retail partners are also showing increasing enthusiasm. After exiting many inefficient retail outlets and discount-prone wholesale boutiques, while sacrificing a turnover of around €400 million, the brand is finally gaining the high-fashion adjacencies Rosso craves. Just before New York Fashion Week, the company teamed up with a high-end independent retailer to host an all-night party Webster at the club in East Williamsburg, celebrating a capsule collection of Glenn Martens designs for Diesel reworked in the store’s signature pink.
Laure Ériard Dubreuil, founder and CEO of The Webster, called Diesel Martens an “avant-garde journey.”
Of course, two collections are rarely enough to change the perception of a brand as big and established as Diesel — especially when the entire product offering is much broader than Martens’ vision. But it’s clear that Rosso is on to something with his new star — the test will be whether the brand can win over more than die-hard fashionistas.
https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/luxury/diesel-glenn-martens-renzo-rosso-otb/ Can Diesel repeat its success in 2000?