He was fashion editor at Dazed and Confused, Lady Gaga’s personal stylist (yes, the meat dress was his idea) and is responsible for reviving Mulger and heading the fashion department at Uniqlo.
He’s the dude that merged the worlds of fashion and porn with a campaign dissecting society’s digitally-focused discourse. He’s the artistic director at Diesel. But according to Nicola Formichetti, he’s not a crazy digital dude.
“I’m actually really traditional when it comes to communicating,” he says. “People have this expectation I’m totally absorbed in social media because I did a campaign about it. Sorry, but I’m not.”
This week, Formichetti was a guest speaker at the 2016 VAMFF Marketing Breakfast.
Sticking true to his Italian heritage, Formichetti enjoyed a single espresso. “Australians are so obsessed with breakfast!” he laughs, “in Italy, these things would be at lunch, or dinner.”
I ask what it was like to speak in front of 300 hungry Australians.
“Not many people know this but I’m super shy. This morning, when I had to speak in front of all these people, I was like… AHHHHHH!” (Yes, he actually screamed).
“Someone asked me, ‘what’s your trick to marketing?’ And I was like, shit… what is marketing? For me it’s something that’s organic. If it’s honest and it comes from your gut, it’s good marketing.”
Along with speaking at the Marketing Breakfast, Formichetti is here to open his brand's very own exhibition, Welcome to Diesel World. The centrepiece of VAMFF’s Festival Plaza, the free retrospective is an education on everything Diesel, from exploring humble beginnings with founder Renzo Rosso, to showcasing Formichetti’s latest (and most provocative) SS16 campaign.
“Diesel was the first fashion brand in the world to work with PornHub, and we will probably collaborate more in the future. We have porn stars interested in our product now. It’s super cool.”
The modern master of boundary pushing, I’m interested to know whether Formichetti thinks it’s imperative that brands do radical things in order to remain relevant today. He is swift to correct my sweeping statement:
“I think that is a silly way of looking at things,” he says. “Don’t do something radical simply for the sake of doing something radical. That would be stupid. But hey, if it’s true to your DNA, go for it.”
“Also, bad press is always good press,” he adds, with a wink.
The media was infatuated with Diesel’s SS16 campaign. Platforms with a younger, more digitally-engaged audience couldn’t give it enough air time (I know, because I read a lot of them). It’s clear Formichetti is pitching his brand towards a younger market, even though they’re not necessarily direct consumers of the Diesel product.
“I think they are the most powerful consumers today,” Formichetti says. “They never step offline; they are always engaged and this means we can speak directly to them, all the time.”
“But they like to see relatable people in campaigns. I don’t cast people because they have these crazy presences on social media. Why is one person better than another, because they have more likes? I think this is bullshit.”
“I cast people because I think they’re interesting, or different. Everyone thinks they’re a little bit weird, right? I want to have people in my pictures that are kind of weird. Then the audience can relate to their beautiful mistakes.”
His favourite emoji is the poo. Yes, that cheeky little brown blob with wide eyes and a cunning grin. “It’s funny, it’s cute. I use it when I’m happy or shitty,” he laughs. “I mean c’mon, it’s a little poo.”
His favourite social media platform is Snapchat. But he’s not so fond of Instagram. He doesn’t use Facetune and recently he became obsessed with one of our favourite local bloggers, Hayley Hughes.
But at the end of the day, Formichetti prefers to follow his friends. And in real life, not on social media.
“This is why I’m in Australia,” he says, “I have so many friends here! And I think your fashion week is amazing. People get really dressed up. Sometimes in Europe people can be a bit too cool for school but here people are more in your face. I like that, it’s more me.”
“Plus, VAMFF has been doing what these other huge labels, like Burberry and Tom Ford are suddenly trying to do, for 20 something years. I think being able to buy something right off the runway is genius.”
He’s posed for a million photos since being here, with media and fangirls alike (I like to think I fall somewhere between the two). And although he confesses to not being as glued to his screen as people think, his Snapchat (nicopanda) is definitely worth a follow.
#Filter/#Nofilter? “A little bit of filter always helps you look a bit more sexy,” he laughs. “Remember our campaign? Society can’t stop retouching itself.”
Thus, with these words in mind, like many other filter-flirting milennials, I will shamelessly continue to retouch. And believe Joe Jonas when he stares down the barrel of the Diesel SS16 lens, and says (types), “you look real good.”