FASHION

Diesel’s Glenn Martens Drives a Nail Into the Democratization of Fashion


A model on the runway at Diesel wearing deconstructed and oversized leather racing jacket and pants
Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

Thousands of guests attended Diesel’s spring 2023 show in Milan. In fact, 3,000 tickets were offered to the public. Creative director Glenn Martens has quickly become one of the designers hellbent on breaking down the barriers of the traditional fashion industry, and he did just that, once again, for the brand’s spring 2023 collection.

The show, which took place in a room full of massive, vaguely sexual inflatable sculptures, opened with a procession of denim looks: bra tops, oversized vests, sliced jeans, shredded maxi dresses, distressed hot pants, baggy trench coats, and structured corsets. Taking influence from his work at Y/Project, where Martens did a deep dive into the material, the designer has made it clear that Diesel is a vessel to play with every kind of denim, as well as a way to discover how those very concepts interact with the Diesel archives. “How can we reinvent denim or what can we do with denim [that’s] unexpected?,” he told W in April. “How can we twist it? How can I conceptualize the way our denim is perceived?”

Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images
Photo by Estrop/Getty Images)
Photo by Estrop/Getty Images
Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images
Photo by Estrop/Getty Images
Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images
Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

From the chunky denim bomber jackets to the tiny denim tube tops, spring 2023 at Milan Fashion Week was a character study carried out through jeans. There truly was something for everyone, and many of the looks felt like they touched on the expressive subcultures that are flourishing online and in the real world right now. We saw the Y2K fan, the whimsigoth girl (in an ombré denim dress that faded into sheer oblivion) and even the Gorpcore guy, in all of his glory.

Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images
Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images
Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images
Photo by Estrop/Getty Images
Photo by Estrop/Getty Images
Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images
Photo by Estrop/Getty Images

Within the finish of each piece, we could see Martens really indulge in the luxury of denim exploration. Grainy, wood-like textures covered long and jean jackets; cargo pants had a layer of chiffon on top. The chunky, distressed hems that resembled faux-fur trim were divine. We’ve seen all of this before, of course, but under Martens’s eye it felt distinctly directional and extremely well-executed.

Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images
Photo by Estrop/Getty Images
Photo by Estrop/Getty Images
Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images
Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

Beyond denim, there were leather jackets, silky cargo pants, printed jersey maxi dresses, and skirts and dresses with neon lace insets. The collection felt extra joyous when Martens experimented with colors that touched on the hues of the sunset: Near-neon orange sweaters paired with metallic pink skirts, for example; or flaming tangerine denim sets.

Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images
Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images
Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images
Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images
Photo by Estrop/Getty Images
Photo by Estrop/Getty Images

Since Diesel’s show in Milan last season, we’ve seen the brand’s 1 DR Bag worn by everyone from Kylie Jenner to Julia Fox (who sat front row again this season). Spring 2023 didn’t feel like it had one particular “It” item, but the outerwear and its range were particularly strong.

Beyond inviting the public to his show, a real rarity in the world of intimate post-Covid presentations, Martens’s expression through denim telegraphs an overwhelming message of democracy in fashion. This is a designer who often takes inspiration from the metro, after all. “I feel that denim is a very democratic material,” he said. “You can wear it with a high heel, you can go to a cocktail, you can go rave.”