ELLE's Exclusive Chat With Diesel Creative Director Nicola Formichetti

Following the opening of Diesel's new store in Knightsbridge, London, we caught up with the brand's creative director Nicola Formichetti to talk fashion, Trump, styling and, of course, Lady Gaga

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Regret. That's the feeling I have as I walk through Knightsbridge on my way to Diesel's new store to interview Nicola Formichetti – a man who has styled the likes of Marilyn Manson and Lady Gaga, worked as the creative director for Parisian fashion house Mugler and now boasts the title of artistic director at Italian fashion label Diesel.

Why? Because today of all days I slept through my alarm and, for some unknown reason (that probably made sense while half asleep), decided that a plain black H&M dress and scuffed black boots would make a fashion statement in front of one of the industry's most acclaimed stars.

Nicola Formichetti at the Nicopanda SS16 Presentation, New York Fashion Week
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After all, this is the man who famously dressed Gaga in that meat dress by Franc Fernandez for the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards and is the brains behind her being carried into the 53rd Grammy Award inside a Hussein Chalayan egg.

But, fortunately for me, Formichetti – who today is dressed down in a simple black knit and jeans – isn't one to judge.

'You should always create your own style because you don't want to look like other people. Start becoming your own stylist. When we're styling, there are no rules – you just create your own rules,' he says as we sit alongside each other on a comfy cream sofa in the downstairs of his new store.

Diesel, Knightsbridge
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It's safe to say that Italian-Japanese Formichetti doesn't boast the most conventional paths to becoming a creative director of one of the world's biggest labels. Coming to London as an architecture student, Nicola immersed himself in the London club scene and street fashion, working his way up to become art director and head buyer at Broadwick Street clothing store, The Pineal Eye.

In the years that followed, Formichetti caught the eye of Dazed and Confused fashion editor Katy England and went on to work on projects including V Man, Another Man and Arena Homme before becoming Dazed 's fashion editor, fashion director of Vogue Hommes Japan, personal design director to Lady Gaga and multiple roles as creative director of some of the fashion industry's most coveted brands.

Not bad for a self-proclaimed 'high school dropout'.

We sat down with stylist/creative director to talk diversity in fashion, post-election America, individuality and what it's really like to work with Gaga...

Congratulations on the new store, Nicola. How would you describe the quintessential Diesel customer?

The way people shop today is completely different to twenty years ago. Now you have your phone with you and thinking about so many things but you also want to relax. I want the Diesel customer to have both options, so when they shop they can breeze into the store on the weekend or during their weekday lunch breaks but also go home and shop online. We all have such short attention spans now so it's nice to be able to shop throughout the day.

I wanted to create stores that were almost like going into someone's house without bombarding people with products.

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There's been such a movement this year for the 'see now, buy now' way to shop. Is this a good thing?

Yes. We actually did our first 'see now, buy now' fashion show in Tokyo a month ago, and it worked really well. For our size of a brand it's perfect because you can create an interesting event and invite your customers who can buy straight away, but it really depends on what kind of brands you have. I don't think it's a good idea for small, younger brands because they have to protect they sales. Diesel has its own retail stores and distribution system, so it's perfect.

Diesel's #Forsuccessfulliving Party

How has fashion has changed over the years?

It's much more inclusive. Before, fashion used to be this 'behind the curtain' thing you could dream of and admire – like a secret society you wanted to be part of. That's not the case now. We want people to be involved throughout the process and every single step of a brand's journey. This inclusiveness – without being too snobbish or elitist – feels very much in keeping with Diesel.

You've been such a champion of diversity. What do you think of the rise of gender fluidity in the fashion industry.

It's always been an important issue to me. It's crazy that we're still talking about body types and different colours and now, because of Trump, it's even crazier. As a brand and a person, I believe we have to stand and make a statement that we're made out of all these different things because it's beautiful and positive – there's nothing horrible about it.

Milan Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2017
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I always make sure that I include that thinking in all the messaging that we do because we have influence over younger generations and people around the world – it's our duty to talk about diversity.

You were in New York during the presidential election – what was it like?

It was insane. We were supposed to have this incredible party afterwards – for the win – and then it turned into a complete nightmare. The positive thing to come out of it [laughs] is that we will unite. That's the only positive thing I can think of.

It was a very depressing time for my friends and I for the first few hours but then we were like, 'You know what, f*ck it, we just have to voice ourselves', so we went out to protest. It was a really beautiful thing to see all the people out on the street. It's the only thing my friends and I have been talking about the last week but it's good because young people are going to get educated and hopefully stand up and do more.

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Are you an Instagram stories or Snapchat fan?

I'm not a social media fanatic, I just use it to communicate with people and friends. I noticed the other day that I get less emails from my friends now because we just talk to each other on Instagram and Snapchat. I'm a huge Snapchat fan. I love what I do and I want to share that with people – from me playing the piano to hanging out with friends to work. It's all the same to me so I love having one place to share that with people.

Imagine 🙏🏻🇺🇸♥️ #lovebeyondborders

A video posted by Nicola Formichetti (@nicolaformichetti) on

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Who is your go-to person when you want to ask advice on your work?

My mum has always been a big influence on me. Somehow, she knows everything. She might know anything about the fashion industry, but she'll say to me, 'Are you sure about that?' She's such an amazing bouncing board.

Who are the key people to have inspired and encouraged your career?

The founder of Diesel, Renzo Rosso, has been such a big influence on me because I'd never had a father figure in the industry; he's teaching me the business side of the complex fashion world. Before, I only cared about being crazy but he's teaching me about how to be successful within the industry with both business and creativity. Similarly, Gaga has been a big part of it. She always encouraged me to do my own thing.

What does Gaga bring to the fashion industry?

She takes risks, she's brave and really passionate about what she is doing – I can really relate to that.

Maybe not everybody is going to like something, but if you and your friends are really into it then f*cking go for it. She is pushing music and fashion forward, and we need people like that.

Nicola and Lady Gaga at the Nicopanda Presentation, 2016

She appears to have adopted a new style that's arguably a bit more toned down. What do you think of her new fashion direction?

My old assistant, Brandon Maxwell, took over after me and there were mixed reviews. But, of course I know her so it was very natural to see her take this evolution of style because her music is changing. In every cycle, she transforms into another person but it's always her. It's incredible. We've started collaborating again and I'm actually making some stuff for her at the moment.

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You're known for having styled her in the controversial meat dress for the MTV Video Music Awards. Did you want to push the boundaries with that outfit?

No, actually. We never wanted to shock people. People said that was why we were doing it but we were treating it more like an art form or theatre. We wanted to use those events, videos and red carpets as an art project to re-think a new way of being there. Yes, it looked insane sometimes and the meat dress was madness – I got so many hate emails the next day – but we loved it.

Lady Gaga at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards
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How have you moved on from being 'Lady Gaga's stylist' and formed your own career separate from that in the years that followed?

Styling has always been my passion and I always like to move forward – not forgetting the past, but looking at new things every day. I always think, 'what can we do today?' I have so many things I want to do.

I'd love to design costumes for movies, do more things with music, toys – lots of stuff.

How do you go about being a stylist for a particular client?

When you say 'stylist', I don't think I'm a really good stylist – I don't know what's right. For me, styling is more like a collaboration. I talk to the person and we build and bounce off ideas to create something together. I'm terrible at doing the typical celebrity red carpet. That's why I don't work so much with actors and typical celebrities. I love working with performers and musicians because you can go a little bit further.

You recently worked with Marilyn Manson for a cover of Dazed and dressed him in Vetements. What was he like to work with?

He's incredible. He had such amazing energy and was playing his new music on set. He's such a beautiful man. I've always been a huge fan of his, and still today he's rocking it.

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Who would you love to dress or change up their style?

Melania [laughs]. I'm joking, I don't give a f*ck. Who's going to touch her first? I would love to work with someone like Sia because she's such an incredible performer and I've always wanted to work with Bjork. I love strong girls that already have strong personalities so I can just add onto it – it makes my job much easier.

What should we be wearing for SS17?

I love when girls go a little bit more out of their box. I love mixing two different worlds and clashing styles. It feels like the entire fashion industry is going towards that so it's the perfect time for a cool girl to think that maybe something looks a little bit off but to just be confident and just mix stuff up.

@marilynmanson by @terryrichardson for @dazed styled by me

A photo posted by Nicola Formichetti (@nicolaformichetti) on

Do you think your experience in magazines and architecture has helped your artistic vision?

Maybe, I never planned it. I just did what I liked at that time and one thing lead to another. You learn throughout the process and meet people. I was a high school dropout so I had to learn throughout the actual work process and made lots and lots of mistakes. I keep making mistakes, too. I'm not scared of to do that.

It's refreshing to hear someone admit to making mistakes.

I make so many mistakes, it's insane. But, now I can say it. When you're young and insecure you feel embarrassed to but it's ok if you can be completely honest. Mistakes are a learning process. I think if you're perfect, you should just stop.

When you're back in London, what do you like to do?

I lived there for 10 years but I only really know east London because I lived on the Kingsland Road in Shoreditch. Dazed and all my friends were there so I always go east. But the problem now is that whenever I go to Shoreditch, it's completely different. It looks the same but the people are completely different. So, every time I come to London now I always get my friends to take me to new places.

🍂Delicious Autumn 🍂 London ♥️ photo @johnligas 🍂🍂🍂🍂

A photo posted by Nicola Formichetti (@nicolaformichetti) on

I love the Hayworth gallery and the riverside. I used to run from Tower Bridge through to the London Eye where you can get a real contrast of super high-tech buildings to more traditional ones in lots of nature. It's so beautiful there and I love Tate Modern.

What book are you reading at the moment?

I read a lot of books because I'm always on airplanes without wifi. While it might not be the most recent book I've read, one book that got me into reading books by the author Deepak Chopra was called the Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.

It's not about money but about being true to yourself. It's a really simple way of living your life with seven rules. It's amazing. Oh my god, I've just realized it's kind of similar to Diesel's new advert.

Diesel's new flagship store is now open at 73 Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, London, SW3 1DB

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