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Diesel -- SPRING 2022 MENSWEAR

“It’s DIY and kind of psychedelic and crazy—definitely not your classic runway.” So said Glenn Martens on set last Friday morning, six hours after wrapping the filming and look book shoot of his first above-the-line Diesel collection. After spending several days averaging nine miles dashing here and there during production, and then a half-night of briefly snatched, Negroni-warped sleep, he could most definitely relate to the dream-state Run Lola Run progress of this film’s flame-haired heroine, who wore jeans (of course) and a slit white tank top insinuated into the denim via a belt loop at the back. The film saw her transition through four distinct stages: after-party, woozy commute, office arrival, and finally a trippy touchdown on Mars. It was a trip, for sure—was it also just a dream?

Back on planet Milan, Martens inhaled deep gulps of espresso as he laid out some of the thinking behind this rapidly presented collection that represents a significant punctuation mark in the history of the brand. As already laid out in our preview interview, the Bruges-born Belgian designer has landed at the historically irreverent Italian denim label set on a mission of transformation that is both social and environmental.

In the collection’s first section all of the denim cuts were taken from Martens’s newly established Denim Library, an evergreen fully sustainable offer that will in future represent 40%, at least, of the company’s jeans offer. “Although,” he noted with admirable transparency, “not all of the pieces in the film and collection are sustainable, as they have been treated with special coatings.” This opening section featured riffs on what Martens called “the clichés of denim”: high-waisted five-pocket pants with integrated shoes and big denim knickers (both tangibly Y/Project-y), as well as bleached patterned pieces and trompe l’oeil prints.

Once out on the street, running, our protagonist led us into a more experimental denim vista, featuring overdyed, smocked full looks of regal outerwear and Giro d’Italia kinky athleisure. A men’s look featured a bonded recycled paper pressed over undyed denim coat and pant, padded denim of a classical Parisian persuasion, and organza dresses and skirts draped to hang (just like Lola’s look and most of the forwardly feminine pieces here) from the hip.

Once promoted to the office elevator—a fresh morning hell after the night before—the looks became more ironically formalized. There was a lot of ingenious process behind the bulbous, flexible pieces in upcycled denim and jersey subtly overprinted with historical Diesel graphics and a paint-like finish. Black leather track-stripe pants and trucker jackets and silkily satin workwear in dusty pink and baby blue represented attractively radical employment attire. There was a great “utility skirt,” basically one very long and pocketed bandolier, that could be worn either as a mini or dangled out the window to use as an escape ladder from the office.

As more and more of her colleagues filled the elevator, our heroine stood close to the exit and exuded higher and higher levels of chased anxiety—was she headed to human resources? When the door opened, it was upon a territory even more inhuman: a fake Mars-landing stage set populated by Martens’s most joyfully alien looks. Probably the best was the huge upcycled organza overcoat he was too weakened by fatigue to not refuse to wear during our preview. Other winners included NASCAR-bright modernizations of workwear, sort of retro Jetsons uniforms, and a minidress patterned with an apricot Milky Way swirl.

Martens is reordering the position of Diesel’s particles in order to evolve it anew. What he found especially cheering during the shoot, he said, is that the models were enthusiastic about the pieces to the extent that they were checking the retail prices and drop dates, in order to be sure to get hold of the gear for themselves. This first Martens Diesel shuffle was both small step and great leap: a futuristic future-proofing full of twistedly alluring and sometimes gorgeously grimy garments with which to reconnect afresh with the originally twisted social denim house.


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