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Nicola Formichetti on Dazed
Photography Matt Irwin, styling Nicola Formichetti

Nicola Formichetti on hating trends and growing up weird

Gaga’s former right-hand man muses on everything from adolescence to digital detoxing behind-the-scenes at the Dazed Fashion Forum, hosted by Amazon Fashion

Earlier this month, we put out a call for wannabe fashion writers to come and cover the Dazed Fashion Forum – our day of talks and workshops hosted by Amazon Fashion featuring the likes of Gareth Pugh, Isamaya Ffrench and even Rankin undertaking a live photoshoot. Here, competition winner David McGregor interviews Diesel's artistic director Nicola Formichetti.

Rising through the ranks from looking after a one page feature in Dazed to becoming the magazine’s creative director, Nicola Formichetti’s career has been something of a roller coaster. After stints working with Lady Gaga (he was the one behind the infamous meat dress) and Mugler, his current role at Diesel is defined by his boundless creativity and innate ability to engage with young people around the world. The designer-slash-stylist is famed for his early adoption and savvy use of social media – something which is immediately apparent when we meet him, as he casually checks apps like Snapchat and Meerkat on his phone. Of course, the biggest mistake when interviewing a man in charge of a legendary denim brand would be to turn up in a pair of grossly ripped-at-the-knee jeans. Which I did. We shake hands and his youthful face breaks into a grin.

Nicola Formichetti: I actually saw you earlier from across the room and thought “Stitch up those jeans boy!” It’s funny though, because when I go home my mum stitches everything up and I’m like “I paid so much money for this!” She still checks that there’s no beard. She hates it and I’m like “Mum, I’m 38! Please!”

Ha, I can imagine you as a child always trying to break boundaries or be different. Would you say that’s true?

Nicola Formichetti: Well, I was already different in nature because I was an Italian boy in Japan and a Japanese boy in Italy. For me it was normal to be different. I hated trends, so if everyone were wearing black I would go colour and if they were wearing colour I would go black. I was definitely a weird boy. Also I had parents who were very conservative; my dad was very Italian, very proper, but my mum was more understanding, so I flitted between the crazy and the more normal.

You said earlier about kids these days being lazy, which I totally relate with – struggling to concentrate.

Nicola Formichetti: Because there are so many distractions! I’m like that too – constantly checking my phone. It’s not good. If you want to want to do well in the industry you have to be able to switch it off because the creativity only comes when you’re completely in sync with what’s happening around the world. I recommend having a digital detox. Susie Bubble was just saying she did one for two days and it was the best thing she’s ever done!

“I was already different in nature because I was an Italian boy in Japan and a Japanese boy in Italy. For me it was normal to be different. I hated trends” – Nicola Formichetti

I only got a smartphone last year and suddenly I had so much less time. I was obsessed!

Nicola Formichetti: Well, you’re going to be like a dying breed, like a young journalist – they’re a dying breed too. You can’t think about making lots of money, though, because unfortunately writers aren’t well paid. But what Alex (Fury) is doing is fucking genius! He’s pushing fashion forward with his words. And we need that! We need more of you to critique and to provoke!

I was looking at an old copy of the magazine today and I saw Katy England was an assistant and Alexander McQueen was on the masthead. You realise everyone sort of comes up together.

Nicola Formichetti: I mean it was crazy because I was amazed when Raf Simons and Hedi Slimane used to come to my store (the Pineal Eye) and then a few years later I’m working with Hedi and he’s telling me “You should do your own thing” and I’m like “I’m just a stylist!” In this industry you can meet your icons and it’s crazy! Once you get in there it’s just a dream.

Even today, just meeting and hearing from people in the industry has shown me that this reputation of everyone in fashion being bitchy and nasty is just not true. Everyone’s so nice!

Nicola Formichetti: They’re just shy! Once you get in, people are super nice.

I feel like the more successful people are, the nicer they are.

Nicola Formichetti: Except America! Because America’s more about business. England’s more about creativity. In America you have to be making a lot of money.

You lived in LA for a while, how was that?

Nicola Formichetti: I loved it. I just loved it because everyone’s just so chill. And it’s sunny. And sometimes you need that when you’re in London and you’re like fuuuck and you’ve got no money. Then you go to LA and everything’s cheap, everything’s possible, and everything’s fabulous! Loads of London people end up there simply because it doesn’t rain. But if you want to be creative you cannot be in a sunny place. You have to have this kind of bubble.

Trapped in a room...

Nicola Formichetti: Yeah! But it’s changing now. Hedi is there, Jeremy Scott is there – so you can make it work. I want to live there. For sure. Just have a beautiful house, lots of dogs and a husband. Voila! Fabulous! Fabulous everything!