I had a weird little memory the other day – a naive fashion reverie, if you will. Right before the pandemic, we were all taking bets in the GQ office on who would be dare wear a skirt first. God, have we ever been so young? At this point, even though I still mostly see my colleagues on Zoom, I can see everyone going wild with their wardrobe – skirts, dresses, crop tops, sheer blouses. The idea that you would be bold to wear a skirt in a men’s fashion magazine? Tips for the kids!
You can also see this energy in the streets: everyone is wearing what they want. The crazier it is, in fact, the better. The chaos of the past year, from protests to politics to the pandemic, has led to a growing demand among millennials and Generation Z for more radical ideas. But people don’t just dress wildly in America. “It’s also happening in London,” Samuel Ross of A-Cold-Wall told me last week and, according to every designer I’ve spoken to this week, around the world. Self-expression is almost like a global imperative now – and almost a political act. This is one of the many big changes that have taken place this year: we have all become monsters! Everyone has cooled down. More experimental. People dress more exuberantly, with more energy.
So now is the perfect time for a designer like Glenn Martens, the founder of twisted Belgian brand Y / Project, to take over Diesel, the irreverent Italian denim brand founded almost 50 years ago by Renzo Rosso. Martens is a head of denim, which makes him a good choice for an iconoclastic jeans line, but he’s also a certified monster – a metalhead who brought us a series of striking pieces: oversized coats and boots (absolute unity!), totally twisted Uggs, and comedy or trompe l’oeil (… cheating lol?).
Thanks in part to these designs, he’s one of the most influential designers of his generation – his fingerprints were all over the thesis collections of recent fashion school graduates, who clearly adore his demented-couture build. With Diesel, whom he officially joined at the end of October as the company’s very first Creative Director, he has the opportunity to push his wildest ideas forward. There’s a chance, he explained in a Zoom call from Millan last week, to get real influence beyond the fashion realm, to actually change the way people make and think about clothes. clothing. “It’s more than a fashion brand,” Martens said of Diesel. “It’s a global brand, which means it’s a brand that speaks to every person, regardless of age, sexuality, religion, how much money they make. Anyone can potentially be Diesel, and it’s anywhere in the world, too. So you have a lot of power that way. And [by] a lot of power, I mean the responsibility to change things.
This last point, for him, is all the interest. “If I just wanted my ego to be satisfied,” he continued, “I would have just worked in another luxury house.”
Martens is one of a growing number of designers of his generation – he is 38 – who sees the potential of a mass brand more appealing than the prestige of the luxury sector. One of his first commissions, for example, was durability, which is no small feat considering that denim is one of the most polluting fabrics in the world. Its goal is for 40% of Diesel’s denim to eventually come from its new sustainable denim library; as a result, he changed the entire company’s supply chain in his first six months on the job. “We have a lot of dead stock, which we are reusing in creative ways,” he said. Some of these pieces appeared on the runway Tuesday, including T-shirts that were cut and woven together, and a rad costume made from leftover brown paper wrappers. Upcycling is a big part of what it will do – and while it has become a buzzword in the fashion world over the past year or so, it’s a much different challenge for a brand in the world. scale of Diesel.
But the flip side of these challenges is a kind of unique opportunity. “We’re not a luxury brand, and we never will be,” Martens said. “We are truly the alternative to luxury. Which doesn’t mean you have to do boring things. Take the video of the collection that debuted on Monday, made by a 28-year-old Londoner: a Course Lola CourseA redhead walking through a series of dream-like settings – party, office, utopia – dressed in what Martens called “a denim cliché: a white t-shirt and pants”. The t-shirt is anchored by a complementary belt, slung around the waist with a shoulder strap attitude and anchoring the shirt, while the jeans are baggy boot pants in one. (Of course, because it’s Martens, even the cliché is hard to explain.) A quilted outfit feels like a medieval dinner outfit and a satire of luxury logo prints at the same time. There are also long embossed fitted denim coats, stone wash jeans, acid wash jeans, oversized and skinny jeans and everything, all crazy, and nothing you’ve seen before. Basics can no longer be basic. The new world monster demands a new standard. Looks like Martens is here just in time, for rappers and freak-normies alike.