A New Kind of Model: Giant, Inflatable, Aggressively Sexy

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There’s a lot to see at fashion week. Blink (or scroll too fast) and you’ll miss the details: feathered bags, futuristic sunglasses, fork jewelry. All month long, we’ll spotlight the things we saw that surprised or delighted us.

MILAN — There was nothing subtle about the way Diesel drummed up interest for its latest runway show, its first since the buzzy Belgian designer Glenn Martens joined the company in October 2020 as creative director.

It sent invitations containing an edible thong made of red and white candy. It lit up skies in Japan, South Africa, Sweden and many more countries with drones forming its “D” logo.

So it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise for guests walking into the show space in Milan on Wednesday that the first thing they saw was a giant inflatable woman, lying on her stomach with her head resting on her hands and her rear end raised high in the air. (This reporter was eventually seated, along with other members of the American media, directly facing her denim shorts-clad derrière.)

Diesel was clearly going big. Tacky. Garish. Cheeky. And that was the point. Mr. Martens, also the designer of the Y/Project label, has long embodied avant-garde trashiness. Seeing him go to work at Diesel, the brand best known for sexy ’90s jeans, has been a breath of fresh air — if “fresh” meant slightly polluted with weed smoke and expensive perfume.

But back to the inflatables, or sculptures, as Diesel referred to them. There were five, each modeled on real people, varying in size but approximately 25 feet high and 55 feet wide.

The sculptures were based on 3-D scans of the people, which were then reworked into 2-D motifs.

The aim was realism in the inflatables’ corners and bevels but with distortion and accentuation in certain curves. For example, one goateed and shirtless inflatable knelt with his legs spread wide and hands flat on the floor, pouting slightly as his hips gyrated backward. Diesel called these “confident, exuberant and proud poses.”

While the identity of the artist wasn’t immediately clear, the company later clarified that the sculptures were made by a team under the direction of Mr. Martens.

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