"Fake Smiles" Spring 2021 Ad Campaign

Review of Diesel X Diesel “Fake Smiles” Spring 2021 Ad Campaign by Diesel Creative Director Glenn Martens, Creative Director Christopher Simmonds, and Photographer/Director Johnny Dufort

Glenn Martens’ first campaign as creative director of Diesel has us smiling big – maybe too big. In celebration of the new Diesel X Diesel collection, Martens worked with creative director Christopher Simmonds and photographer Johnny Dufort to create a surreally humorous yet complex campaign for Spring 2021.

Conceived by founder Renzo Rosso and further developed by Martens, the Diesel X Diesel collection updates select pieces from the brand’s archive of almost 50 years. Martens elaborates as follows.

When I arrived at Diesel, its founder Renzo Rosso was working on a unique, temporal take on fashion collaboration: past Diesel and present Diesel. He was studying how to fuse the label’s heritage within the context, and outlook, of the year 2021. Then and now, together. I thought, what a better place to begin? I embraced this vision and am proud to have worked alongside him in amplifying what you see here, today.

— Glenn Martens, Creative Director of Diesel

This unique intersection of past and present is embodied in a campaign whose strikingly humorous facade gives way to nuanced layers of irony. The faces of a diverse and thoughtfully cast group of models are made even more striking by digital editing, which exaggerates their smiles to a bizarrely huge size. Dufort captures these big smilers among retro-inspired sets that uncannily imitate scenes from everyday suburban life, like working in an office or mowing the lawn.

As we continue to look closer, we realize that something about this exaggerated happiness feels… off. Seeing these characters go about tedious chores with unflagging and aggressive optimism makes us wonder whether we haven’t stepped into some sort of Brave New World reality. We have already been wondering how real these smiles are, and we begin to fear that there may be consequences if the smiling stops.

Coupled with the collection’s vintage-meets-contemporary approach and the retro set design, we can see in this imagery a subtle and ironic criticism of tradition and of antiquated institutions that promise happiness.

Young people today are recognizing that the post-war, late-capitalist ideal embodied by the suburbs and handed down by their parents and grandparents may be another myth they have been sold, and that the freedom to buy whatever we want may not be real freedom, may not bring happiness.

Thus the campaign almost feels anti-consumerist – a stunningly bold first move from Martens, who after all has been recruited to help Diesel continue to sell clothing. But it is just this tension that feels most contemporary. All around the world today we are reckoning with history like never before, and seeking ways to integrate the consequences of the past into a better future.

By brilliantly pointing out the present’s complex prerogative to both criticize and canonize the past, Martens has positioned himself as a master of the present. Thinking deeply and artfully, he recognizes the artist’s role to transform the matter of the past, in the present, to create a vision for the future.

We are so excited to see what he does with it.

Diesel Creative Director |  Glenn Martens
Photographer/Director | Johnny Dufort @ Do Be Do Represents
Creative Direction | Christopher Simmonds
Casting | Midland
Stylist | Ursina Gysi @ M+A Worldgroup
Hair Artist | Cyndia Harvey @ Art Partner
Makeup Artist | Lauren Parsons @ Art Partner
Director of Photography | Eoin McLoughlin @ Vision Artists
Set Designer | Poppy Bartlett @ Magnet
Manicurist | Pebbles Aikens @ The Wall Group
Production | Holmes Production
Talent | Mya @ Scouted by Mollie, Raj @ PRM, Jose Luis @ Menace Model Management, Katey
@ Body London, Mensah @ Premier Model Management & Jaden @ Models 1 Kelly Ann @
Ugly, Stan @ Ugly, Oliver @ Scouted by Mollie, Michael @ Scouted by Mollie, Debbie
@ Scouted by Mollie & Trill @ Scouted by Mollie
Editing | Tom Chick
Colour Grade & Effects | Coffee + TV
Retouching | IMGN Studio