Diesel's 'genuine imitation' is a hit

Shoppers at a faux Diesel pop-up shop in Canal Street in New York waiting to snap up clothes with an almost-right logo.
Shoppers at a faux Diesel pop-up shop in Canal Street in New York waiting to snap up clothes with an almost-right logo.PHOTO: NYTIMES

The clothing company is pumping up sales by making its own counterfeits and pocketing the cash

NEW YORK • Diesel has found a way to pump up sales.

It is the latest company to turn its fakes into buzz. Thanks to a collaboration with Hood By Air's Shayne Oliver, even more buzz may be on the way.

At a pop-up market stall just off Canal Street in New York's Chinatown, shoppers have spent the last week snapping up jeans, hoodies, T-shirts and boxer briefs with a familiar, almost-right logo: Deisel.

Sure, the "i" and "e" are on the wrong side of their usual position. But you get what you pay for.

Diesel jeans generally start at well more than US$200 (S$265), but Deisel ones cost US$69.99.

Companies such as Diesel spend significant resources chasing down counterfeiters and stamping them out of business.

According to Mr Renzo Rosso, the founder of Diesel and president of its parent company, the Only The Brave Group, the label shut down 86 websites hawking fake products last year.

But last Friday, he was crammed into the small, wood-panelled shop with no intention of dampening the demand for Deisel.

He had created it.

"This is a magical moment for logos," he said, noting that a brand can embrace its own purity and imitation. If you cannot beat them, join them, the logic runs. Make the fakes and pocket the cash.

Diesel is far from the only brand to come to this idea.

Gucci has riffed on its own bootlegs (and styled its own Guccy logo) and set up shop with Daniel Day, better known as Dapper Dan, the counterfeit couturier it had once threatened out of business.

Like Gucci, Diesel aims to make its patronage an event. Last Thursday, rapper Gucci Mane posted about the shop on Instagram, inviting fans to meet him there at noon.

By 12.30pm, the outlet was thronged and the security-patrolled line outside snaked nearly a full city block. The stall remained till yesterday - after that, the collection goes online.

Mane did a spin-through, posed for a few photos with Mr Rosso and Diesel executives and left the store in a strobe of camera flashes.

The mob waited around to shop anyway.

"I didn't get the Mane love, but it's cute," shouted Jorge Wright, known as "Gitoo", a model and music producer with dreadlocks in a Deisel sweatshirt.

Ms Janelle Dey, who chanced upon the line while walking through SoHo with her boyfriend, stuck on the end of it, not knowing in particular, she said, what was on offer or why, but game to wait up to an hour to find out.

At the en-suite media room - an amenity most Chinatown shops do not offer - Mr Rosso was celebrating a return to Diesel.

After a decade spent mostly focusing on the other labels in the Only The Brave portfolio (Maison Margiela, Marni and Viktor & Rolf, among them), he is back at the one he founded.

"My people said, 'You need to be back,'" he said. "It was missing the DNA. The passion was missing."

He promised a lot of new projects and "a new adrenaline". Which led one to notice that Diesel's artistic director, Nicola Formichetti, had left in December and no successor has yet been named.

But in the media room, some of the collaborators known in New York for working with designer Oliver, were talking and joking with Mr Rosso and Diesel executives.

Oliver's name could be overheard being bandied about.

Could he be set to take on Diesel (or, for that matter, Deisel)?

"I don't know this name," Mr Rosso said when asked about Oliver. Maybe, like Deisel, he might know Oliver by another identity.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2018, with the headline 'Diesel's 'genuine imitation' is a hit'. Print Edition | Subscribe