Diversity, Purpose and Self-Expression: Diesel Black Gold's Andreas melbostad on fashion's bigger picture
Historically, fashion has always served as a barometer of the times. Perhaps one of the most well-known examples of this was the changing female silhouette as society progressed into a post-World War II era. Pragmatism and necessity dominated female attire during the Second World War, relegating women to uniforms and practical footwear as a result of the fabric rations, and the nature of the jobs that they found themselves in. After the war, a newfound sense of optimism was embraced and it was only natural that a more joyful, frivolous style became in vogue as a way to forget the dreadful years of the past. Christian Dior famously championed the movement aptly dubbed ‘The New Look,’ by returning to a femininity that he had perceived to be lost via smaller waistlines, pronounced busts, and volumes of luxurious fabric.
Indeed, fashion is much more than some playful form of expression but a study of society based off of what we don through moments of glee, freedom, protest and more.
With today’s dialogue centering on technology and issues of race and freedom, we asked Andreas Melbostad, creative director of Diesel Black Gold, about how the industry has shifted to reflect the times. With counterculture and self-expression at the heart of their very DNA, this is one fashion brand that has never shied away from speaking up.
Describe your creative process.
It evolves every season with an organic idea. It can start with something quite abstract and then we’ll fill it in with the actual pieces that create a mood and materialize it. [Our brand is very] democratic. We look to dress people and be a part of an everyday urban uniform. I love that aspect of creating a brand that can do that job for today. It’s a very interesting process to be a part of.
Technology has allowed us to be more connected and move faster than before. Where do you see this playing into the fashion industry at the moment?
The consumer is very involved and informed. Today, the consumer shops the whole market and is very savvy. If you want to buy a leather jacket, you can shop from top to bottom and find one brand that speaks most to you according to your priorities for price, quality and more. That makes the job of the brand a lot tougher because you have to be aware of your direct competition, but also the entire market. You have to find your way to offer something that has real value, is credible and gives a reason why the consumer should turn to you and buy into your brand.
We’re living in an interesting time where much of the global dialogue is focused on issues concerning immigration, human rights, racism and diversity. Fashion has always provided its own unique way of commenting on the social landscape. How does your work speak to what is going on in the world today?
Fashion is always pushing the envelope. At the moment, there is a lot of reflection in terms of a new attitude and generation that doesn’t necessarily see gender in the same way [as those before.] All of this really plays into what ultimately becomes the kind of product and aesthetic that we as fashion brands put across. For me, fashion is really about self-expression and identity. We’re thinking in a much more countercultural way that focuses on personal identity.
Do you think there is a threshold that brands and designers should consider when it comes to commentary on sensitive issues that are being discussed?
I think every brand has to choose its own path. Traditionally, Diesel and Renzo [Rosso] (Diesel’s founder) have been quite controversial with a lot of their messaging over many years. For Diesel, it’s very much a part of our heritage to be quite aggressive in making strong statements, and that’s still a part of the corporate culture. There are so many paths, but that’s the beauty of the industry and of fashion—it is all about self-expression.
We live in a global community with a rich mélange of different consumers. And yet, the fashion industry can still feel like it falls behind in terms of diversity across age, race and size. What role does this play when it comes to your work?
Our aspiration is very, very global. Often, people ask who I am inspired by—who is my muse? For me, it’s almost impossible to answer because I don’t think in terms of one specific person or place. It’s all about attitude, one that unifies the identity of a project that I’m trying to create. This attitude taps into someone who wants to really enjoy fashion and make their own personal expression. I don’t make decisions about that in terms of how we cast a show or approach these things because for me, I just see the world as one world. I feel like a citizen of the world.
You’ve been all over the world and met many people with different perspectives. What have you learned about human nature and what people desire from these experiences?
When you travel, the biggest realization is that people are mostly the same wherever you go. What really drives people, and the passion that they have for things, their happiness and sorrow—it’s pretty much all the same. I think that’s what’s nice to see, the same humanity everywhere; it’s the common denominator. Of course, the settings are always different, but overall I don’t see so many differences, really. At the same time, it’s great to travel, explore new things and tap into cultures that are very distinct. But ultimately, people are the same.
What do you think people long for?
I think it’s self-fulfillment. People want to fulfill and express themselves, and have value inside their community. For me, I love the idea of individuality and self-expression; it’s something that I hope to reflect in each collection. I love the idea of empowerment and pieces that have an empowering quality to them.
What does success mean to you?
Personal realization, independence and self-expression.