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Why Diesel Partnered With Tom of Finland For Fetish-Inspired Fashion

Why Diesel Partnered With Tom of Finland For Fetish-Inspired Fashion


Creative director Glenn Martens explains the kinky collaboration and denim's queer appeal.

Diesel and the Tom of Finland Foundation have joined forces in creating artful apparel.

The clothing company, known for its designer jeans, has released a capsule collection emblazoned with the work and signature of the famed Finnish artist, whose homoerotic drawings have influenced queer culture for decades.

The capsule collection includes underwear, jackets, tote bags, shirts, socks, and accessories. It also showcases the work of other queer artists influenced by Tom, such as Florian Hetz, Silvia Prada, Palanca, Tank, Heather Benjamin, Peter Berlin, and Michael Kirwan.

Additionally, as part of the collaboration, over 70 LGBTQ+ artists from the ToF archive were featured in an "AllTogether" exhibition staged internationally throughout Pride Month. These pieces, co-curated with the Community art collective, are usually shown at the Tom of Finland House in Los Angeles.

In the following Q&A, Glenn Martens, who was named Diesel's creative director in 2020, discusses the sartorial partnership as well as Tom's legacy.

What inspired Diesel's collaboration with the Tom of Finland Foundation?
Diesel has addressed social matters since the very beginning, with its ironic advertising campaigns and unique tone of voice: The first time I saw a gay couple kissing was in a Diesel advertising campaign of the '90s. When I joined Diesel, I reinforced our commitment in terms of social sustainability; collaborating with the foundation is part of our journey.

What do you hope to achieve by merging erotic art with clothing -- both through an exhibition and on the actual clothing itself?
Today, being sex-positive is something to embrace. The foundation's art reflects the feeling of being loved with happiness and joy. The capsule collection's visuals are confirming this very same attitude, helping people enjoy their lives and have a successful way of living.

What do you hope is the partnership's impact on Tom's legacy as well as the other artists featured in the collection?
While the Tom of Finland Foundation and the Community have curated all the aspects of the exhibition, Diesel's role has been to give a platform to these important institutions, as they have been an example for the community for such a long time.

What do you hope is the impact on Diesel's brand?
The Tom of Finland Foundation maintains the memory of the work of many generations of activists and artists which have helped create a place of acceptance, to remind people that the emancipation of the LGBTQIA+ community has not been an easy job and there is still so much work to be done. We at Diesel can be reminded of this every day, and we can transfer this very same positive message of inclusion in our global market.

Jeans figure prominently in Tom's work. What do you believe is behind their queer appeal?
Denim is a very transversal garment, the most democratic fabric, a user-friendly garment, versatile, and able to talk to every single person in the world.

How has Tom impacted your life, both creatively and in a personal sense?
Tom was one of the first internationally known erotic gay artists to have an impact on the growth of young adults. His art helped me and so many people in the process of sexual acceptance and developing a sense of community.

As Diesel's creative director, how have you honored the brand's past while reinventing it for the future?
With my arrival in Diesel in October 2020, we have been working a lot towards both social and environmental sustainability: Diesel is fun, it's sexy, and it's also socially responsible -- it's all the same energy since it was founded. It's how young people are today: They party, they push life to extremes, and they stand up for their beliefs.

At the same time, we are thinking about the future. I have worked to improve the production chain of the core category of the brand: denim. The aim is to have the cleanest denim possible today. Each piece in the Diesel library, for example, is designed to minimize impact, incorporating responsibly sourced cotton and other environmentally preferred materials and trims, as well as washes and finishes designed to limit water and chemical usage.

What can Tom's work teach the world today?
To keep fighting with love, fun, and joy.

Diesel and the Tom of Finland Foundation capsule collection Photos Spyros Rennt

This article is part of Out's July/August 2022 issue, now on newsstands. Support queer media and subscribe -- or download the issue through Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.

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