Glenn Martens’ Diesel debut for Fall 2022 is an eclectic, innovative collection combining a variety of influences, from Y2K clubwear to motorcycle attire. The Milan show took place in an industrial location, with the set conceptualised by Niklas Bildstein Zaar, known for his work with Kanye West on Donda. The venue was appropriately dressed in giant inflatable jean-clad bodies.
Diesel is known for its denim, having started in Italy as a denim-only brand. They’ve since expanded their empire far and wide, but Martens captures the essence of the brand with denim in every form. Distressed, ruched, reworked, frayed and used as a print in trompe l’oeil creations, his use of the sturdy material knows no limits. This innovation in texture carries through to other textiles – shiny, puckered, embossed or ripped, Martens explores texture to the max.
Accessories and shoes shine alongside the main pieces, and in fact, many of the main pieces take on an accessory-like quality. The large leather belt/micro skirt blurs the line between accessory and clothing, as do the trousers with built in shoes. You can’t discuss the Diesel show without mentioning the alien-esque looks consisting of metallic knit creations, chrome logos and shiny body paint. The monochromatic pink, gold and blue looks add an element of futurism and light-heartedness to the predominant distressed denim aesthetic of the show.
The show began with a simple double-denim composition, a tiny crop top and low slung distressed jeans. It seems that 2022 is the year of the midriff. Much of the show is in dialogue with trends of the early 2000s (‘Y2K’ as it’s known in popular culture) and low-rise jeans exemplify this. The micro skirt is another trend from the noughties making a comeback, which Martens deals with in a unique way. A large piece of denim, like a huge belt adorned with eyelets makes an appearance, flirting with categorisation… is it a skirt or a belt? This harks back to the huge belt trend of the 00s, and I think we’d all be happy for that particular fad to stay buried. But a stylish belt-skirt? Absolutely.
Denim also appears in multiple finishes on the runway, when it’s not completely deconstructed it might have a slight sparkle or an odd plastic coated appearance. The high-shine look complements the Y2K club style present in Martens’ vision for Diesel. On the opposite end of the spectrum, one men’s look features a colossal frayed coat which seems to almost engulf the body. It’s designed to look like frayed denim, but it’s not clear which material is actually behind the giant rugged furry silhouette. It’s a rather imposing piece which captures the industrial largeness and swagger of the show’s atmosphere.
Another piece which Martens has given an early aughts makeover is the shoe. Women’s boots come in pointed toe stiletto form, a style which hasn’t had its due revival like the flatforms of the same era. In classic 2000s fashion, Martens adds large buckles to boots, and keeps the men’s square toed. The sneakers however have a modern twist. In colourways of silver and orange, this footwear’s experimentation with lace placement creates a futuristic look. Some laces encompass the whole trainer, while others come down at an angle from the left.
Logomania is still going strong at Diesel, the McBling convention having soared in popularity again in recent years. We might be tired of monogram prints, but Diesel keeps theirs subtle, almost unrecognisable in the textured denim. What is not subtle is the pink rhinestoned micro skirt, adorned with a giant ‘D’. Bedazzled items are flashy and very, very Y2K. Everything from zippers to bangles, earrings, boots, and bags have the D logo, or the brand name spelled out. This not only adds texture and interest to every look, but asserts the brand’s latent potential for a major comeback. Soon every fashion influencer will likely be seen in the ‘D’ logo mini skirt/belt, like the Miu Miu micro skirt which is currently having its moment in the limelight.
Possibly the most interesting and unexpected element of Martens’ runway show is the body paint that covered some models. It’s not everyday that a fashion show looks like the site of an alien invasion. Skin was iridescent and glowing in unnatural shades – the first model was painted bright red and topped with glitter. Perhaps this element has bled from pop culture into fashion. Wildly popular singer and rapper Doja Cat released a series of music videos in 2021 to accompany her album ‘Planet Her’. The alien aesthetic the songstress embodied in ‘Need to know’ is having a moment, epitomised in painted skin and crazy hairstyles. Through hyper-feminine silhouettes and shiny, slinky fabrics, Martens perfectly combines classic 2000s club wear with futuristic-looking pieces. He innovates, injecting something new into the Diesel brand. It’s safe to say that Diesel’s decline is over – Martens shoots for the stars.