From Mugler, Uniqlo and Gaga, to Artistic Director for Diesel, international fashion and creative powerhouse Nicola Formichetti fancies fringe, tackles taboos and works the web.
I ♥ Weirdos
When I lived in Rome, at age 13 or 14, I was mesmerized by a Caravaggio painting at church. He was considered an outsider and did a lot of taboo stuff like using prostitutes as models. He was a total punk and I was drawn to that. I generally prefer art that is emotionally off. I play classical piano and somehow I find myself drawn to the more offbeat side of that genre, like Rachmaninov instead of Beethoven.
Being a teenager in Italy was a bit boring, and a British magazine called The Face was like my bible and only source of information. I moved to London when I was 18, and it was so exciting back when the Saatchi movement started. We were young and didn’t care about anything, we would party for a whole week. We all wore crazy makeup, cut-off sleeves, and felt like we were part of a big gang. The music (and the drugs) united us. The truth was we copied what we had seen in magazines and art shows. We were faking it and having fun.
“Everyone is an artist now”
I don’t know the future, but my gut feeling is that because there’s much digital and social, we are going to crave old school; un-retouched photos and things that don’t move. It’s so easy to buy now, you just click and it comes to you, but maybe that’s too easy. Becoming an artist is easy now, too. If you have a tumblr account you’re an artist. The meaning of art is changing, but I like that.
The internet is either a vehicle to express new things, get in contact with all this amazing stuff, or maybe it’s just a façade, a screen you can hide behind, where you can invent your personality. I meet all these people online, and the majority of the time they are the opposite of their cyber personas. But there’s no right or wrong and I do love experiencing. Also, I really believe that there are so many people out there who need to be discovered, and not just young people, but generally people with fresh ideas. I think it’s my duty to find them, and Diesel’s duty as a brand to promote this. I want to give a voice and potential success to people who deserve it.
The product isn’t cheap, which is why you must have a desire for the brand. That’s why I want to make it into something people want to be a part of. In the 90’s I went to Diesel stores because they were fucking cool. I couldn’t afford it, but I went there anyway. Kids today aren’t the label-whores we were in the 90’s, but I think they still follow the things they find cool. I only started at Diesel six months ago and I already feel like I’ve done so much.
I went through so much trouble with the media over the Diesel burka image, though I didn’t do it to be controversial. It was purely visual. Religion is probably the only taboo subject now, along with child porn, but I just think burkas are amazing looking things. For me it was about costumes, and the same goes for the Pope outfit. Mr. Oliviero Toscani, who made the Benneton ads, was my hero, teacher and inspiration.
Are the only things that stay with me because I lose everything else. Someone once said to me that tattoos are emotions that you want people to know about. My NICOPANDA tattoo was so painful, I cried. Now I show my pain and sadness to everyone in a way, it’s like saying, “ask me what this is.” It has to be about fear or sadness, because it takes courage to do it.
“Do something new every day.”
Art Vs. Fashion
My motto is “do something new every day,” so I try to either create or do things in new ways, like hold stuff differently or write differently. It’s also about intention. I could look at the same thing and see something new in it every day. That’s why art is incredible to me, and more viable than a garment, because fashion styles change, go away and come back, but you could look at art forever.
Interview and photography by Ira Chernova*