How Glenn Martens Made Diesel Trendy Again

How Glenn Martens Made Diesel Trendy Again

In the ever-evolving fashion world, staying relevant and maintaining a distinct identity can be daunting. Diesel, the iconic Italian denim brand, faced a period of uncertainty, but it made a triumphant return to the spotlight under the creative direction of Glenn Martens. In this article, we delve into the remarkable journey of how Glenn Martens revived Diesel and transformed it into a trendy, must-watch brand once again.

The Midlife Crisis of Diesel

At 43 years since its founding, Diesel found itself at a crossroads. The departure of its previous creative director, Nicola Formichetti, had left the brand in an identity crisis, wondering who would be able to reimagine and revive the brand, known for its iconic mens diesel t-shirts. For four years, an in-house design team struggled to carry on Diesel’s legacy, resulting in a decline in relevance and attention. The brand’s vision seemed stagnant, its collections overlooked, and its runway shows lacked anticipation and attendance. As Glenn Martens aptly put it, the brand was amidst a “classic midlife crisis”.

Glenn Martens: A Creative Visionary

Glenn Martens, the creative force behind Diesel’s revival, brought a fresh perspective and innovative ideas to the table. Born and raised in Belgium, Martens initially pursued interior architecture before venturing into fashion design at Antwerp’s renowned Royal Academy of Fine Arts. He began his journey in the fashion industry by working for brands such as Jean Paul Gaultier and Yohan Serfaty’s Y/Project. In 2012, he established his own fashion label.

Martens’ distinctive design language and creativity quickly gained recognition. He took the helm at Y/Project, propelling the brand from the “emerging” category to becoming a highlight of Paris Fashion Week. His talent earned him accolades, such as being named a semifinalist for the LVMH Prize in 2016 and winning the ANDAM Grand Prix in 2017. However, his revolutionary approach to denim ultimately drew the attention of Renzo Rosso, Diesel’s founder.

Renzo Rosso’s Vision

Renzo Rosso, a prominent figure in the fashion industry and the president of Only The Brave Group, had long envisioned Glenn Martens as the ideal candidate to breathe new life into Diesel. He had toyed with the idea of Martens collaborating with Diesel’s Red Tag collection before officially welcoming him into the brand’s universe in October 2020.

Martens compared his initial experience at Diesel to “jumping on a train that’s going at 200km an hour.” He faced the daunting task of revitalising Diesel’s former glory and reigniting the brand’s essence. His deep dive into Diesel’s archives revealed that the brand possessed all the necessary ingredients for success. Martens succinctly said, “The fun factor was there, the sex factor was there, the no-bullsh*t mentality was there. It was just a bit sleepy. I had to wake it up.”

Rediscovering Diesel’s Legacy

The revitalisation of Diesel under Glenn Martens was not about erasing its past but instead rediscovering and celebrating its legacy. In its heyday — the ’90s and early ’00s — Diesel was characterised by being “the coolest brand.” It was renowned for its iconic denim and provocative advertising campaigns that pushed boundaries.

Martens recognised the importance of these controversial campaigns in Diesel’s history. He embraced Diesel’s radical spirit and saw it as a fundamental aspect of the brand’s journey. As he emphasised, “The louder, the better.” These campaigns had left a lasting mark on Diesel’s identity, and Martens aimed to carry that legacy forward.

A Distinct Diesel Identity

Glenn Martens wasted no time making a bold statement with his debut Spring/Summer 2022 collection. The pandemic restrictions led to a unique presentation in the form of a short film inspired by the experimental 1998 German movie “Run Lola Run.” Model Ella Snyder, a transgender model, played a pivotal role in the collection, underlining Martens’ commitment to inclusivity and diversity.

The collection strongly emphasised upcycling, drawing from Martens’ “Denim Library,” a sustainable segment that would eventually make up 40% of Diesel’s clothing. Trompe l’oeil graphics, patchworked camouflage, and youthful frays infused the collection with a sense of newness while paying homage to Diesel’s heritage. Notably, the iconic ’00s Diesel “D” logo returned triumphantly, becoming a hallmark of the Martens era.

A Distinct Diesel Identity

Diesel’s Transformation Unveiled

Fall/Winter 2022 marked a significant milestone in Diesel’s transformation under Martens. The brand returned to an in-person runway, and it was clear that Martens was firmly in control. The collection exuded Martens’ signature early-2000s appeal and glamorous pop prowess. However, what made it monumental was the innovative denim distressing, which expertly chipped away at the lapels of coats and the waists of jeans, pushing Diesel into a higher-end fashion territory it had not explored before.

Then came Spring/Summer 2023, a collection that continued to challenge conventions and provoke thought. The runway show was a spectacle, with provocative elements and gigantic inflatable artwork that broke Guinness World Records. Denim remained at the heart of the collection, but Martens fearlessly experimented with knits, lace, silk, and camouflage designs. The collection was a testament to Diesel’s willingness to embrace provocation and celebrate sensuality in all its forms.

The Multifaceted Role of a Creative Director

In the ever-evolving fashion landscape, being a creative director is a multifaceted role that goes beyond designing beautiful clothes. Martens acknowledged that it now encompasses political and social dimensions, audience engagement, and a strong presence on social media. Creative directors must be versatile and adaptable to navigate the complex demands of the industry.

The Multifaceted Role of a Creative Director

The Journey Continues

As Diesel continues to make headlines and captivate the fashion world under Glenn Martens’ creative direction, one thing is clear: the brand’s core flame has been reignited. It has established a unique and independent identity, stabilising its fundamentals and connecting with a global audience. The future holds the promise of celebrating Diesel’s journey even further.

Glenn Martens’ remarkable vision and creativity have breathed new life into Diesel, making it a trendy and iconic brand once again. The brand’s revival is a testament to the power of innovation, inclusivity, and a willingness to challenge conventions in the fashion industry.