From working with Lady Gaga and Brooke Candy to shooting the new Jogg Jeans campaign, the Diesel designer tells all
Nicola Formichetti is not a man to hold back on anything, whether that's throwing himself into work as Diesel designer, Lady Gaga's (former) stylist, running his own label Nicopanda or setting up his new Japanese magazine Free. As the keynote speaker for SXstyle, SXSW's first fashion-meets-tech programme, he wasn't holding back. In his live Q&A with Dazed, he wasn't holding back either – holding forth on topics like how Gaga taught him how to use Twitter, his creative process at Diesel and his work on Brooke Candy’s new album.
THE NEW DIESEL CAMPAIGN WAS SHOT IN A DAY
The photographer behind Diesel’s Jogg Jeans campaign is Instagram cut-and-splice star Doug Abraham, but the road to visual perfection doesn’t come easy. “We commissioned a big photographer and a big team to do this campaign originally,” Formichetti said. “We spent all this money, going through the typical way of creating a campaign, and I see the result and I’m like, ‘This is not what we should be talking about’. That was Thursday, a few weeks ago, and on Friday I asked Doug to fly in from NY to Italy, and on Saturday we shot the entire thing, and by Sunday we collaged everything and Monday it was ready to go. So it was like three or four days total work.”
LADY GAGA INTRODUCED HIM TO TWITTER
“When I started working with her, she was really talking to her fans on her computer and her phone. It was so beautiful to see this very intimate conversation,” Formichetti said. “People used to say ‘Oh it’s a marketing thing’ – it wasn’t. She was just there so excited to see what her fans were saying. When we would do a performance, for example after this meat dress thing [at the MTV VMAs in 2010], we would always go straight back to backstage and check her Twitter and see what her fans were saying. ‘Was my hair okay? Was the dress too crazy?’ That’s the only thing she cared about.” So raise your claws for Mother Monster, because she was the one who got him on Twitter.
... BUT HE HAD TO LEARN NOT TO FEED THE TROLLS
When Formichetti began working with Gaga, he became an increasingly public figure. “Suddenly I was in a position where people could say anything,” he said. “I wasn’t ready at all. It was actually really hard… I was upset with every single comment. You remember Blogspot? I had Blogspot, and I would go back to them and be like ‘Who the fuck are you! You're just a kid in Mexico – what do you do?’ And then slowly you just learn to filter. The good thing is that now I get to use whatever [presence] I have, and that’s more important to use in a much more positive way, cause that’s so much bigger than the comments that you get.”
HE’S WORKING WITH BROOKE CANDY ON HER NEW ALBUM
The “Das Me” singer has gone quiet since releasing the video for “Opulence”, which was styled by Formichetti. But it turns out that she’s actually working on the release of her new record – and the Diesel designer has a starring role behind-the-scenes. “She’s gonna launch her album this year,” he said. “I’m gonna do the whole thing with her. Sia is writing all her music; Sia is her music person, and I’m her fashion person, so she’s in good hands.”
BIN PHOTOSHOP AND GET A KID'S APP INSTEAD
You don’t need a thousand-pound camera or editing suite. According to Formichetti, it’s all in your eye. Take Doug Abraham on the set of the Diesel shoot, for instance. “He just came in with his mini iPad, and he told me that he uses this app called You Doodle, and he does everything on this… When I did [the Diesel Tribute campaign] with Nick Knight, he took all the pictures on iPhone and used this app called Glitch [to] create these effects. So it was a great gesture to everyone, saying ‘Anyone can become a photographer, anyone can do it’ – but maybe not as good as Nick cause he’s incredible. Nick was telling me it’s really not about the mediums, it’s all the same: iPhone, expensive cameras…It’s about your eye, and seeing new things and trying new things.”
PEOPLE SEND HIM VERY NAUGHTY SNAPCHATS
Formichetti is an old hat at Twitter and Instagram, but he only just joined Snapchat earlier this week when a friend made him download the app. “It was crazy,” he said. “This morning I instagrammed my Snapchat [handle], so I have 300 videos and I think half of them are like, jerking off videos. I was like, ‘Whoa! Is this what people do?’ So I was thinking, how am I gonna use Snapchat for Diesel? Maybe an underwear campaign cast on Snapchat?” Hey, why not?
HE'S SICK OF SEEING HASHTAGS ON EVERYTHING
In the next two years, if I see another hashtag on a campaign I'll vomit," he said, "but we're sort of to blame." Formichetti reckons that Diesel was the first fashion label to incorporate one into their branding with 2013's #DIESELREBOOT. But with every other brand launching their own hashtag with every new ad, you've got to keep up. Diesel's solution? Incorporate the symbol into the visual identity of a campaign, Jogg Jeans style.
HE THINKS HAVING THOUSANDS OF FOLLOWERS IS OVERRATED
Even though Formichetti has a quarter of a million followers on Twitter (and counting), he thinks that it’s not how many you know, but who. “I don’t really like having too many followers,” he said. “I want to talk to all of them and it’s very very important to know all your followers. I was talking to some kids the other day, who were like 11, 12, and they were saying ‘Why would you wanna have lots of followers?’ They would rather have good followers or good likes. So most of them – they're all private, and they don’t really care to have lots of followers. I really agree with that.”
CASTING MODELS ON SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOTHING NEW
Now everyone from Marc By Marc Jacobs to IMG are using Instagram to scout and cast models, but that’s actually nothing new. The first campaign that Formichetti landed while still at Dazed was for McQ. “It was the launch campaign and we were into the idea of 50s rockabilly,” he remembered. “I just didn’t wanna use models because they looked too normal. So we went on MySpace and into these groups of 50s rockabilly kids and cast them. This was like, ten, fifteen years ago… and this was the first time I used social media for my work.”
WANT TO WORK FOR NICOLA? USE INSTAGRAM
Here’s some advice if you want to land a job with Diesel. “Who needs to see a CV?” Formichetti declared. “Most of my assistants, I find them online from my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. One of my recent ones, Prince Franco, was posting this beautiful artwork on Instagram. So because of that, I hired him recently as my assistant.”