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Diving into the iconic denim moments of the 80s and 90s with Diesel

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Creatives Alfie Kungu, Aimee Gillingwater, and Matthew Josephs take us through their denim dreams and enduring 80s and 90s trends, styling themselves in DieselXDiesel’s capsule collection and vintage archive

Distressed denim, Americana workwear, acid washes. The 80s and 90s really defined the denim sensibilities that are once again of the moment we’re living in. Now we’re emerging from lockdown, it’s time to dig the denim out once again too, and say farewell to the sweats. And who else could Diesel, the heritage Italian denim brand spanning 40 years, collaborate with to truly celebrate the enduring aesthetics of denim across the decades… but itself? So welcome DieselXDiesel. And even though it’s rooted in days gone by with its vintage feels, collaboration with oneself feels very now – in an era of isolation and uncertain connectedness, we’ve gotten to know ourselves intimately – no?

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DieselXDiesel is a capsule that spans the brand’s dynasty, with a line-up of 24 pieces inspired by the archive with a 2021 take – think relaxed 90s straight leg jeans and 80s varsity bomber jackets, green and reddish washed denim, Route 66-traversing, patch-covered vests, and workwear silhouettes. It’s playful and deliciously nostalgic. The collection follows recently appointed creative director Glenn Martens’ first label campaign When Together, which featured eight IRL couples reuniting after time apart to celebrate Valentine’s day. This new capsule is a collaboration between Martens and Diesel’s founder, Renzo Rosso, as they work to build a contemporary Diesel landscape that nods to the Italian denim connoisseur’s vast legacy while innovating for the future.

So why are the best looks those that are borrowed from the past? Showing us exactly that are musician, model, and all-girl skate collective Bowl Babes founder Aimee Gillingwater, bold and evocative artist Alfie Kungu, and the playfully high-glam stylist and creative director Matthew Josephs. In this fun and free campaign film, the trio dive deep into the Diesel collection, iconic archive, and vintage finds from their own personal wardrobes. Shot from their homes and studios, they playfully experiment with the 80s and 90s ideals that speak to Diesel’s singular, textured, nostalgia-expanding vision. Below, we hear how they worked the DieselXDiesel capsule, the denim trends they hold dear, and how their style and artistic practices echo the 80s and 90s forever.

ALFIE KUNGU, ARTIST

Yorkshire-bred, London-based Alfie Kungu is an artist that plays with the traditional conventions of painting in his bold, textural work, with a fearless use of colour, and strong characters that hark back to childhood ephemera. Having collaborated with Nike, Folk, and Liam Hodges, his bright and eye-catching work is a much-needed dose of playfulness that makes nostalgia for the joys of youth physical. It’s a sentiment that aligns with the values of Diesel and its capsule, taking inspo from 80s and 90s cartoons, streetwear designs, and rave culture. For Kungu, the joyful sensory elements of childhood – mucky hands from playing in the park, ripped denim knees, a much-loved hat his mum knitted for him – are rooted in the 90s.

“Streetwear is quite print heavy with really loud, bold colours. I think I really try to translate that use of pattern in bold colour palettes within my work,” Kungu says. “90s rave culture has had a massive influence – especially rave culture in the North, really dope –, the 90s hip-hop scene, anything underground.

In the campaign video, Kungu dives into his own wardrobe to style looks with the DieselXDiesel collection, selecting the bleached denim jeans as a personal favourite. “I think vintage styles have endured through time because they were quite iconic when they came out,” he says. “As styles progress, they’re maintained because they don’t need to be fixed. Trends always repeat themselves.” For Kungu, that enduring element is laid bare in his own personal style – the straight leg jeans and a varsity bomber – as in his art.

AIMEE GILLINGWATER, MUSICIAN

Musician, model, and skater Aimee Gillingwater’s creative output speaks to the DIY spirit of the 90s – Gillingwater co-founded Bowl Babes, an all-girl skate collective encouraging girls to take up the sport, while her music recalls the dreamy, hazy qualities of Mazzy Star. She finds herself most at home in the aesthetics and sounds of the 80s and 90s, having listened to grunge and punk through childhood and into her teens. “It really helped me deal with a lot of emotion I didn’t understand back then,” Gillingwater says of her affinity to punk, “but also how to express myself with clothes and style and dealing with judgment from peers.” 

In the campaign visual, Aimee explores her own vintage collection – pulling out sweater vests, silk scarves, and her mother’s own denim jacket – and dons the Diesel collection’s patched suede jacket, which she describes as a “super unique visual piece”, and the loose, soft denim boiler suit that reflects those punk and riot grrrl sensibilities. Feeling good in her clothes, she believes, helps her creative process. 

“Pieces were just so well made that they’ve lasted incredibly over the years,” Gillingwater says. “Denim from 30 years ago can still look so good today, and the time and effort that went into the cuts is quite frankly priceless.”  And what denim styles does she predict we’ll hang onto? “Double denim, without a doubt.”

MATTHEW JOSEPHS, STYLIST 

From styling Charles Jeffrey’s AW21 homage to the Club Kid to FKA twigs’ ethereal and otherworldly fashion moments, stylist and creative director Matthew Josephs’ malleable, irreverent creative vision plays with pop culture, gender, and cultural iconography. The 80s and 90s then – from underground subcultures to Ab Fab, Aaliyah, Spandau Ballet, and the Spice Girls – are a well of inspiration for the most romantic and high-drama. “I love the hedonism and fun of parts of the 80s, and 90s hip hop aesthetics,” says Josephs. “Recently I did a shoot and the reference for the hair was an image of RuPaul from the 90s.” 

“I think the New Romantics and the Blitz kids influence my work a lot,” he adds, recalling the escapism the subcultures offered. “I really love fashion when it’s extreme and fantasy, and I think that’s what we need right now, a bit of glamour after spending a year in pyjamas!”

Shot in his eclectic studio – avec a very cute dog – Josephs takes us through his DieselxDiesel faves and own vintage finds (check those snakeprint platforms immediately). “I am obsessed with these trousers with the leather panels down the front,” he says of the Diesel piece. “I really enjoyed pairing them with my spice girl boots for something unexpected, and a silk neckerchief to soften it.” The final look is very east London Blitz Kid strutting through Covent Garden.

Josephs reflects on the timeliness of Diesel’s capsule collection. “There’s a fondness for the 90’s now as it was a really great time for culture, there’s not so much like that now in my opinion. Looking to a future where he can wear his new looks out, he adds: “I love going out even though I’m actually quite shy, I can’t wait to put on some real clothes (not sweatpants) and go for a dance. I keep thinking to myself, when everything opens you have to get overdressed for every occasion to make up for the year we just missed out on. I hope we’re going into another ‘roaring 20s’ and people have fun with expressing themselves through fashion”.