Ten Meets: Andreas Melbostad of Diesel Black Gold
Andreas Melbostad is in London for a single day. We have to see him. He’s the creative brains behind Diesel Black Gold, don’t you know. Brains we wish to pick away at. So, off we trot to Browns Hotel (we were invited), where we were greeted firstly and rather distractingly by the sight of one of those Fergie princesses partaking in afternoon tea (“The dark-haired one? That’s Eugenie,” Natalie would tell me later) and then secondly, and far more importantly, the lovely Diesel Black Gold team and their fearless leader, Andreas. Who was very nice, and not at all terrifying. Speaking on the day his Resort 2017 offering hit the internet, we talked to him about the collection, his design process and then inappropriately tried to offer him therapy. To which he politely declined. Because let’s be honest, he doesn’t need it – in just a few years he’s made Diesel Black Gold one of the most exciting propositions in men’s and women’s fashion. To add visual stimulation to the conversation, we have included also our favourite looks from the Resort collection. Isn’t it lovely?
How is it to be in London?
I love being in London – I was telling the guys I used to live here as a student at the Royal College.
I was actually going to ask – you seem to have lived and worked in so many different places – Italy, New York, London – I wondered how that’s influenced your work? Has coming from Norway and the whole Scandinavian design thing infiltrated into your collections?
That’s a good question. It’s hard to really define for me because it’s not so clear in that sense. I’m sure being Norwegian there’s a certain approach to life. I think it’s a bit like the kind of girl I imagine because that’s a strong woman, but you know, coming to London as a student it was an understanding of the international fashion system, understanding the multiple voices of fashion. I think my whole experience here, with Paris afterwards, and of course New York, has played a part in shaping everything…
What’s your favourite city?
I love New York as a city to live in but I feel fortunate to travel to places and cities and spend a lot of time away. I love London, of course, and Paris as well. I don’t necessarily have one favourite but I’m very happy in New York. When I go to Diesel it’s like the countryside of Italy which is also very nice – I think it’s a good contrast.
So talking about the resort collection – which is super nice, by the way – how did it start? I guess your collections seem more like an evolution of ideas rather than totally new each time…
Yeah, in reality we kind of look at the same sources of inspiration season by season and we really define these. It’s very much about wardrobe and resetting these pieces that are part of everyone’s live. I love how they represent a sort of emotional value, I like that they’re very direct. As a brand we’re not an intellectual, we’re not very futuristic; it’s real clothes for a modern person but finding a way to move that forward and repurpose it and reconstruct it.
I think Resort was very much about these ideas I think number one was a sort of bomber, biker jacket that’s become a hybrid. Then we had a trench coat and we cut it off and it became a sort of skirt. I was obsessed with the idea of the shoulder-less – that masculine staples could become very feminine when we cut the shoulders off and added the straps. We play on the masculine and feminine throughout the collection. With the men’s we did a bomber jacket and cut it off and applied the leather jacket on top; in this case it’s like a bomber jacket meets a jean-jacket. With volumes we started very much in the last season doing bigger volumes with jackets and outerwear matched with skinny legs. The pant volume for men we’re introducing a much bigger pant…
Yeah I noticed that sort of parachute style…
So we had a parachute lining and we played much more with the volumes in the men’s, which for me was very interesting. You know to drive that forward as well…
I wondered how the men’s and women’s work together? I know for your campaign they were shown together and in resort they are too. I wondered how it works – does women’s comes first or they evolve as one thing?
When we do the pre-season we work very parallel, we use the same locations and a lot of the same inspiration. There is a sense of coordination and cohesion between the two, but it is two different stories. But, in the end it’s supposed to hang together and it’s supposed to speak the same language. They’re kind of like brothers and sisters maybe more than partners? (laughs)
What’s the link between Diesel Black Gold and your own personal aesthetic? I read that when you started you took the job because you thought there were similarities…
What I really liked and connected to when I met Renzo Russo was the kind of sense of irreverence, the attitude. I love using those references and that counter-culture references. We look at what could be punk or rock or biker or mod; these references are all part of it. You know – the idea of a biker jacket, of a military jacket, all this for me is something that has been inspiring. So that was sort of the common ground…
You talk about music and I know it’s an influence. Who are the artists you listen to? Are there any artists who have influenced you whilst you’ve been at Diesel Black Gold?
I listen to a lot of different things. I love music – I travel a lot so I always have things playing and it’s quite diverse. When it comes to work I would say iconic bands, so, The Clash, Joy Division. The female could be like… Blondie. Musicians have this sort of irreverence that’s much easier relate to than say an actress… they are more free to express themselves…
Yeah, they have a bit more attitude.
Yeah, and for me attitude is really like a driving source of inspiration. Every collection sort of feeds off this idea of how the attitude of this person evolves and how to express this attitude…
Do you listen to music whilst you’re working?
Yeah I do.
What’s your studio like?
Well, I work between New York and the office in Italy. So when I’m in New York I’m at home, so it’s very much a New York apartment setting. When I go to the office it’s a big Diesel building. There, we have about two and a half people per gender. Plus the graphic team, then we have some external designers for the accessories….
So it’s quite a compact team?
Yeah, I’m very hands on with the work so I do a lot of the sketches and most of the research to kind of conceptualise it. For me, that’s really important.
Going back to the Resort collection, were there any specific references that you were looking at or was it more about a general attitude?
This collection was very much the core idea of these iconic pieces and how to drive it forward… we’ve been looking at our identity. It was really an effort about that. So it was all about the items in the wardrobe that we’re building and how to kind of repurpose them and give them a new expression.
Joshua Drew, PR: What’s your favourite piece in the collection?
I really like the parachute trousers. I like the striped women’s stuff as well. (To Andreas) What’s your favourite piece?
The obsession was with the off the shoulder. That was a starting point and that was kind of fun because you can play with it. You have a tailored jacket, you have a biker piece, a men’s shirt… it gave a whole new appeal to all those pieces and that’s kind of nice…
Are you working on the men’s show now?
So the collection is pretty much taken care of! We’re really far in advance so what I’m working on design wise is Pre Fall. Sometimes I have to kind of rewind and reintroduce myself because this project began last November I would say…
That’s nice to take a moment to do that.
Yeah, I have to sort of go in and out of the different stories.
And how do you feel about the debate at the moment on the speed of fashion, the amount of collections?
I think its super interesting to think about how and when you should show collections. There’s a lot to think about and we are actually talking and looking at all those different scenarios… but it’s not so easy to know how to move differently; there’s a certain logic to it. Everything is so accessible these days you publish this now and it hits the store half a year later, they aren’t as excited by it as they would have been in the past. I think this is the sort of thing that people are struggling with today. I think the seasonality is kind of a struggle. I don’t have so many answers, but I think that it’s very interesting that the industry is asking all the questions and I think there’s going to be a really experimental phase for people to understand… I think something good is going to come from it…
Do you think that you enjoy the fast-paced nature of creating many collections, or would you like the time for ideas to grow and germinate?
It’s difficult to slow things down. Maybe there should be a more individual approach. You always have Alaia who showed when he wanted to..
You talk about Alaia, I know you really admire his work. What other designers do you look up to?
There’s so many. I love Alaia’s work – I love his strict, focused approach. I look a lot at Japanese designers like Comme, Yojhi. And then Helmut Lang.
Are there any designers that are exciting you at the moment? Your peers?
You know going to Dover Street Market today, J.W. Anderson obviously has a very strong presence here, which is great. I personally love Craig Green’s work. It was exciting to see it in detail. I also love the work of Sacai…
Sacai’s stuff is really nice.
It feels really fresh and really well done but still really accessible too – quite democratic in terms of the price point.
It’s kind of really about the clothing rather than just a statement. Every piece feels really considered.
Yeah, I mean there’s a lot of movement. London for me is great because you see the product in the stores the way it should be seen. With the States the stores don’t necessarily show what you want to see from the designer…
Have you ever had any disasters at all?
Oh many disasters, oh wow! In what sense do you mean: professionally, privately?
We can turn this into a therapy session if you want…
It’s a lot to dive into – no, of course. You go through a lot of issues… but hopefully you learn to try and manage the job. Because season by season you have to build a smart brand, in my case, and at the same time you have to evolve the spirit and. It’s like a balancing act. It’s like a monster you have to feed as a creative.
Opposed to that, do you have a particular moment at Diesel Black Gold that you’re most proud of or a collection that you keep coming back to?
No, I think it’s difficult to say because I kind of don’t look back so much back. I think for me the first women’s was challenging in terms of getting the product to be more or less the way it needed to be, but I enjoyed doing that show because I enjoyed the spirit of it, it was a very tough controlled girl so that felt very good…
So just to finish – is there anything exciting coming up, apart from obviously the shows?
The shows are kind of our key moment. We’re going a lot of things we’re doing small collaborations here, shooting the week after next in London, we’re doing a second collaboration now with a band. So we’re working with them now to do shoot of the outerwear pieces from the last show. Stay tuned…