Glenn Martens brings new life to Diesel for SS22
For the Belgian designer’s debut collection, he reanimated the Italian lifestyle brand with his trademark senses of wit, zaniness and fun.
Images courtesy of Diesel
Behold! One of the most anticipated moments of Milan Fashion Week Men’s SS22 is here: Glenn Martens’s debut collection for Diesel. Indeed, since the announcement of the Belgian designer’s ascension to the helm of the Italian denim behemoth last October, fashion fans’ tongues have been ablaze with speculation around the direction he would take with such an iconic lifestyle brand.
After all, over the course of his ongoing tenure at Y/Project, Glenn has made a name for himself as a purveyor of Fashion with a capital F, prioritising a highly conceptual approach to design. Just take a look back on AW21’s warped riffs on wardrobe classics, with the hems and seam-lines of trousers, coats and even bags threaded through with pliable wires.
Diesel, on the other hand, is cherished above all for the ease and youthful sexiness associated with its 90s heyday, not to mention for its relative ubiquity. Rather than attempt to reconcile the two, though, Glenn has chosen to take an entirely separate approach to his new role. “Of course, it's a very different exercise to Y/Project, which is all about experimentation and construction and pattern cutting,” he concedes, noting that “this isn’t at all what you can do at Diesel. It’s supposed to be an active brand."
Indeed, the same fresh spirit that first made Glenn fall for the brand is kept faithfully intact here -- jackets, jeans and miniskirts in stonewash blue abound, catering to an audience that’s looking to come to Diesel for what it knows. The more fashion astute, though, are hardly left by the wayside. “Diesel's so big, there are so many layers to it -- it's almost like a lasagna,” Glenn remarks. “There are so many directions you can go in, and depending on the layer you're looking at, you’re targeting a different customer.”
He describes the common note that binds the brand’s customer bases together as a “fun factor”, a sense of “colourful, happy expression”, though this lightheartedness doesn’t detract from the rigour with which pieces intended for a bolder clientele are designed. In a testament to Glenn’s masterful manipulation of familiar textiles, garments, and silhouettes, an overcoat is composed of clumps of frothy tricolour organza, while a jacquard blazer bears a trompe l’oeil print of a worn-in Diesel biker jacket, and cowboy and point-toe boots are fused to the bottoms of straight-leg jeans. Elsewhere, the designer’s trademark skewiff drapes translate to sinuous denim-print ‘dresses’ -- top and skirt combos woven together with belts -- and hulking black leather coats and wrap skirts with panels peeling away from the body.
The garments described above attest to the aesthetic do-over that Glenn’s given the brand -- to the balance of fun and ambitious design that he’s managed to strike. Where the most significant overhaul has taken place, though, is behind the scenes, with Glenn insisting on a major shift towards more responsible production practices since his arrival. “Once you're at the head of a global brand like this, you have to question what it means to be in this position today. And with such a massive name, you have a lot of power,” he reflects. “My first real big job at Diesel was to question the full supply chain, and the production team involved -- the whole process of making garments, really.” Over the course of just six months, this saw a complete rethink of the company’s entire production process -- no small feat for a multi-billion dollar brand. Now, “all the cottons are certified, our production has been relocated and we’re also working with a transparency policy, so you can scan a QR code in a garment and learn more about how it was made on our website,” Glenn proudly says. “I think that's what's very important when you have the power of being so big.”
This more mindful fashion ethos also translates to a 10 look capsule of artisanal, upcycled pieces, including a bomber woven from deadstock T-shirts, or a car coat cut from a textile created by bonding cardboard boxes from DHL deliveries to leftover denim. These pieces, admittedly, won’t be hitting the mass market, but it bears noting that a similar level of creativity and consideration has been invested across the board. If, as Glenn says, Diesel’s a lasagna, then we’ll take a big fat slice.