Marketing the Rainbow

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Case Study: Diesel

branche: Fashion

Article last updated Apr 13, 2022

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David LaChapelle’s stylish advert for Diesel’s SS17 campaign took a stand against Trump's xenophobia, and features a gay wedding, diverse cameos and a rainbow-colored tank facing a naked man. There are several members of the LGBT+ community, including former Gay Times cover star Laith Ashley. #makelovenotwalls is about tearing down the walls that separate us, and let all sides come together in the name of unity and love. The Diesel love tank breaks the wall with a heart shape turning a symbol of separation into a happy place full of flowers of celebration of freedom and love. “At Diesel, we have a strong position against hate and more than ever we want the world to know that,” explains Artistic Director Nicola Formichetti. “Love and togetherness is cru-cial in creating a society we all want to live in, and the future we all deserve.” Committed to diversity and the rights of individuals around the world, the iconic American artist and photographer David LaChapelle collaborates with Formichetti to break down barriers. 

2020: Francesca

*Francesca* expresses Diesel’s “For Successful Living” spirit, and it supports the freedom to live as one desires - the freedom to do what makes one happy. Diesel gives attention to transgender persons, and in an interesting turn shows where life can take you.

Sofia Malamute, Stella Lucia
Sofia Malamute, Stella Lucia
Ian Isiah
Ian Isiah
Harlow Munroe
Harlow Munroe
20 Pride capsule
20 Pride capsule

"With more pride than ever" Diesel launched the 2020 Pride capsule, consisting of 49 pieces. Primarily, we see underwear, beachwear and accessories. Notable items include boxer briefs, bikinis, jock straps, socks, baseball hats, tank tops, bodysuits, T-shirts, shorts, sweatshirts, sunglasses and watches.

"Being who we are should not be up for debate, judgment, or approval - nor should Pride be in any way minimized when facing new obstacles and turbulent horizons. That being said: It is more important than ever to promote and take action for freedom, fairness and justice."

All assets depicting and showing this capsule were created by LGBT+ individuals around the world: Harlow Monroe, Sofia Malamute, Stella Lucia, Kai Isiah Jamal, Saro and Ian Isiah. Each created imagery through their lenses and in their own homes and places of shelter.

In 2019, Diesel presented a Pride capsule for the first time, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. They released a collection spanning 20 pieces including T-shirts, hoodies, socks, swimwear and much more. While some pieces had been completely rendered in all colors of the rainbow, most bore a multi-colored version of the brand’s logo with the word “Pride” highlighted below it in the place of “Denim.”

Created in partnership with Only The Brave Foundation, Diesel aimed to promote tolerance and equality worldwide by donating a portion of its profits to The Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative.

The outline

Diesel burst onto the scene with a flash of genius, betting that the style conscious, flush-with-cash youth of the Wall Street boom era would pay handsomely for jeans that were brand new but looked vintage. Diesel rose to prominence and fame off the back of its clever advertising campaign.

The Cannes International Advertising Festival named Renzo Rosso as its Advertiser of the Year for 1998.

They worked with famous LGBT artists like David LaChapelle. Diesel’s Artistic Director, Nicola Formichetti is also a frequent collaborator with Lady Gaga as her stylist and fashion director.

Diesel has long held diversity and inclusion as core values of its brand ethos. When Glenn Martens took over the role of Creative Director from founder Renzo Russo in 2020, he said: “I am extremely honored and excited to join the Diesel family. Synonymous with radicality, honesty, and optimism, Diesel helped shape the way we see the future. Its unique voice has made it an undeniable icon. Today, more than ever, I feel the need to celebrate these founding values, to build bridges through a message of hope”.

2021 Pride

"We are ready to celebrate Pride in new way: louder, prouder and more fluorescent than ever." For the third time in a row, Diesel gave us a Pride capsule. 

2019 Pride

Diesel introduced the new campaign as, ‘The perfect wardrobe for a Pride parade, or for lounging at home—no matter what, each piece exudes vibrancy and self-love.’ However, the Pride collection did meet with disappointment from some customers. In spite of Diesel's 'alternative reputation' and sometime rebellious advertising, the Pride capsule resulted in the loss of 14,000 followers in Instagram. Diesel's response was pricelss: "We’ve taken pride in our beliefs for 40+ years & we believe in #pride. For those who don’t, including the 14.000 followers who’ve left us in the last week.... bye bye! To those who share our beliefs and values, let’s celebrate the fact that #loveislove. Always."  This post generated over 60,000 likes and still left them with 2.3 million followers. 

2021 Valentine's Day: When Together

Another opportunity to show diversity and love was Valentine's '21. "A portrait of absence and desire told through the words of lovers who have experienced both time apart and the intense reconnection that follows.
Real life, right now."

We see a number of couples who have been apart and come together again. Among them more than one LGBT couple. Remarkably, most of the comments on their YouTube channel were (very) negative, mostly mentioning "propaganda" and "agenda".

The accompanying posts on Instagram, however, gained record numbers of likes: over 40,000 for most of them, while the average is 5,000.

2017: Go with the flaw

For the Fall/Winter collection 2017, Diesel showed that you do not have to be perfect. Androgynous, unibrowed, cross-eyed. Everyone is flawed in a way. "Go with the flaw. And go with pride". The vast majority of the comments were raving: like:dislike ratio was 30:1. One pundit said: "The message here is that if you have style, your flaws will become a strength and not a weakness."

There were: 

  • the kissing sailors (David La Chapelle, 1994) featuring the former model-bodybuilder couple Bob and Rod Jackson-Paris
  • perfume Love Crash video (1995)
  • the kissing nurses (1995)
  • the award-winning Boy Scouts (1997)
  • "Individual" commercial (2000)
  • kissing bears (2002)
  • "Feet"  and "Boots" (2005)
  • the award winning "Be Stupid" campaign (2010)
  • the gender neutral ad (2016)

In 1999, Diesel opened large flagship stores in New York City, San Francisco, Rome, and London, and began to open other mono-brand stores in order to augment its points of sale in department and other retail stores. Further flagship stores (also known as "StyleLabs") opened, including stores in Berlin, Barcelona and Paris.

Diesel founder Rosso began purchasing additional fashion companies in 2002, under the parent company Only The Brave: Maison Martin Margiela, Viktor & Rolf, Marni and others.

As said, the advertising campaigns of the brand have been surreal - a bit similar to that of the other Italian brand Benetton - but also controversial, diverse and inclusive. Digital Agency Network said: "Utterly famous for their edgy marketing strategy in almost every single campaign, Diesel knows how to make a splash, probably for the special occasions." DazedDigital.com: "Making the world’s most controversial ad campaigns, tackling politics, religion, sexuality and race". FIB: "This anti-establishment attitude and tongue in cheek humour formed the backbone of the brand."

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2020 Pride

And then of course there were the sexualized hunks in the underwear ads...

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Diesel is a rebellious brand, that has integrated sexual fluidity in their surreal advertising for decades. It was an almost logical element of their communications. Only in recent years they have explicitly expressed their support for the community, mostly around Valentine's Day and Pride Month. 

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2017: Make Love Not Walls

The beginning & more

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2022 AllTogether

On the occasion of Tom of Finland’s birthday (8 May 1920), Tom of Finland Foundation and The Community have curated AllTogether, a group exhibition supported by Diesel. AllTogether explores the erotic art collection consisting of thousands of artworks, spanning multiple decades and encompassing all media and techniques. On the occasion of the exhibition, Tom of Finland, The Community and Diesel published a fully illustrated catalogue with an introduction by curator Sini Rinne-Kanto, an essay by Pierre-Alexandre Mateos and Charles Teyssou, and several interviews.



Diesel S.p.A. is an Italian retail clothing company, located in Breganze, founded in 1978 by Renzo Rosso. It sells denim, and other clothing, footwear, and accessories. The company is known for its surreal advertising campaigns. The Diesel branded luxury fragrance line is owned and produced by L'Oréal.