When we think of Diesel, we think denim, leathers, and a quintessential rebelliousness that has shaped the Italian fashion brand into an iconic, modern classic. Dubbed ‘Diesel’ by founder Renzo Rosso as an ode to ‘diesel’ being the alternative fuel during the oil crisis of the late 1970s, it is a brand that has continued to stay true to its rich history while still giving way to constant interpretation. Enter Diesel Black Gold; incepted in 2008 as the luxury fashion extension of it’s namesake mother brand, the label has become synonymous with an elevated, edgy elegance that speaks for a new generation of Diesel wearers. Fast forward to the first month of 2018 and Norwegian-born Andreas Molbestead presents his tribe of libertarian leather-clad warriors to the world, strutting battle-ready, one after another down a concrete runway.
For AW 18, Molstead places Chinese and Vietnamese multicolor Hmong skirts alongside classic denim silhouettes, embellished with traditional Navajo patterns. Military garments are given an Eskimo twist, complemented by modern interpretations of Mexican and Peruvian Baja sweaters. Moldestead’s new global tribe has one mission in mind; to join together in harmony against the dividing uncertainty of our times. Dansk met up with the self-proclaimed “man of few words” after the show during Milan Fashion Week Men’s to discuss what it means to be part of a tribe today, the new definition of gender fluid dressing, and where he sees the future of fashion in the Instagram era.
You grew up in Oslo, how did your Scandinavian background influence your choice to pursue fashion?
It’s a contradiction in a way because Scandinavia is not so fashion oriented, there isn’t really the lifestyle for it. I did my studies in Norway then after a few years I went to London to pursue fashion. I often get asked ‘What does it mean to be Norwegian and how does that influence the collection?” and I think it’s about a certain way of thinking. I’m always drawn to this idea of empowerment and strength and I think this might have something to do with the Scandinavian attitude.
Your first job out of college was Alber Elbaz at Guy Laroche, and then later at Saint Laurent. Did you consider him a sort of mentor for you when you were first starting out?
I feel I have been fortunate to work with many different, exceptional people and of course Alber is very much one of them. I think what he really showed me was the importance of a personal perspective – he has his own very strong point of view. Working with him at Guy Laroche was a great start in the industry because we were a very small team, so I gained real exposure to everything. I was there for every part of the process whether that was a window display or a show, I was involved in everything.
Last season was inspired by the urban energy of the NYC streets, but this season went in an entirely new direction – citing tribal, multi-ethnic influences and a plethora of ancient cultural references. What drew you to explore these themes?
It was definitely quite the departure from last season. I felt that the combination of the men’s and women’s collection really underscores this idea of the tribe and what that represents. But also with this moment that we’re living in, I felt the need to celebrate multiculturalism and bring everything together. Without specifically trying to make it into a political thing, I feel like it’s a reaction to our current times. It started an idea of wanting to integrate a global vision by looking to many different places and trying to make a new mix. What resulted is sort of an epic voyage of a tribe who forces itself by all means to strive forward. The pieces in the collection of course comprise of bombers and biker jackets – all the iconic pieces that we always do with the same sort of fabrications but we gave a whole new flavor to it. It became a rich story to work with and a challenging and fun collection to create.
Diesel is so well-known for its leathers and denims. What do you think makes a piece like the motorcycle jacket, for example, so iconic?
I’m obsessed with these kind of iconic pieces. I think the reason I love them so much is that they just have this sort of emotional history for us. We all have these cultural associations with certain clothing items – this attachment. They represent something to us. They’re apart of everyone’s wardrobe today and there’s a certain confidence associated with that. I like to play with these references and keep them recognizable while trying to give them a new life. It’s not futuristic fashion, it still has its own history.
The Diesel Black Gold Men’s and Women’s collections are now shown together. Considering the whole awareness surrounding gender fluidity – do you think there is still room for a clear distinction in terms of gendered dressing?
I still think the distinction is clear, but with the women’s collection I love to take masculine references and what we do in women’s also influences what we do in the men’s collection. Black Gold is also quite fashion-focused so it’s not really the traditional in terms of what is men’s clothing or what is women’s clothing. It’s more about individuality and having a range of expressions. For me, when people talk about genderless and unisex fashion, I think it’s something exciting and correct for our time, but I don’t want to push that to the point where we don’t have a wide range. At the end of the day it’s the individual’s choice on how they express themselves. What was great about this show is that I felt an opportunity to create characters that still sit inside one narrative. You have some much more feminine things and other aggressive things, but there’s still a sense of a collective aesthetic and attitude.
So it’s been said and argued lately that subculture, especially in fashion, is dead. There’s a notion that there’s been an ending in terms of inspiration or new ideas, and that everything has become quite democratic in terms of style and in the way that people are seeing and consuming fashion. What’s your stance on this?
For me, Diesel Black Gold is driven by a certain attitude, one that is irreverent to current trends and is ultimately in line with the counterculture. This notion always inspires the energy behind the clothes by provoking change and realising something outside of the norm. That said, I think there will always be an alternative culture, maybe it’s just not as visible these days. Now it’s something you just have to look for.
What do you think is next for fashion in general?
It’s an interesting moment because it’s almost like fashion has become an entertainment industry. I think people are always going to want good design and great products, it’s just about what lifestyle that certain product represents that is changing. I think that the idea of being well dressed is no longer associated with wearing ‘high-end’ luxury clothing. Now it can mean wearing a sports brand. The idea has changed of what we consider style. There’s a much more individual way of looking at our choices and how we put ourselves together. For me it’s also very challenging moment for fashion but also a moment that comes with a lot of opportunities for creatives to branch out into other fields. A lot in the past were not so ‘fashion relevant’ are now becoming quite fashionable, and with that comes new opportunities for change.
How would you describe your process and how do you configure your approach to creating each collection?
It’s hard to say where it comes from. It’s always very intuitive but the process is usually fairly structured. Once I start to think, “Okay this could be a story,” then comes the research. That’s always a super nice journey of discovery because one thing leads to the next and it becomes quite a familiar process. The show today will influence my decisions for the next collection.
You’ve worked with Michel Gaubert on the music for the shows for quite a while. What’s the process like working together with him?
Michel and I have worked together for long time, almost 15 years. Sometimes we start with a word or a few sentences around the concept of the collection and it goes from there. Once we have the full show concept, we will have appointments every few days. I’ll show him a few ideas and he’ll bring some tracks. We’ll talk about the vibe and he might suggest more track, and towards the end it’s all about how things fit together. It’s quite an organic process. This soundtrack was super nice because it was longer than a typical show for us as we’ve now combined the men’s/women’s. So it added some time and was a great chance to create a complete tapestry of sounds. Michel is really talented. He’s able to find a beautiful range of emotions that really tie back to one theme.
You travel quite often for work. What would you say is your favorite city to be in?
I’d have to say New York, where I live. I like the sense familiarity and knowing where to go and what to do. I do travel a lot but I don’t really get to go to a lot of destinations unfortunately. I go between New York and Italy on a monthly basis, it’s almost 50/50. But it’s nice, you tend to find your spots in different places around the world. There are so many places I’d love to explore, so maybe my favorite place is somewhere I haven’t been yet!
Where would you like to go the most?
I have a long list on the go – I’d love to travel in Africa, or South America or some places in Asia. My top choices are always the furthest away, of course. But also in my home country of Norway, I would love to explore the far North. When I was young my mind was so focused on working in fashion, and doing so in Europe and I never really acknowledged my own country then. So I think I would love to do so at this point in my life – just see all of Norway.
If you weren’t doing fashion, what else might you want to be doing?
I love many things. I love architecture, furniture, interiors, food, travel. I would still always love to think of myself in some aspect of design and lifestyle. I would love to build a house, for example. Maybe not actually build it but design it, I think it would be an amazing feat to be able to design and concept a house.
Where do you see the future of Diesel Black Gold?
My biggest mission is not only to strengthen our core as a brand, but also to build comprehensive collections around that core. So it’s just not about denim and leathers, it’s also about the sweaters and the dresses. It’s an ongoing process in communicating and evolving – making it more engaging and interesting, and eventually more familiar for our audience.
Interview by Katrice Dustin