About my first Diesel opening.
OK, my first anything opening.
Since writing this, Diesel has outgrown these digs, shuttered them and ensconced elsewhere. So this is a requiem to a building.
L., who helps Diesel find possible stores and set up their design in U.S. cities, had invited me. Thursday late, she called, saying that Francis or Danieli of Diesel had called desperately saying that they needed extra props for the store: old TV sets, beat-up furniture. The theme was to be the aftermath of a tornado. We lugged over an ancient tubed TV to the store on Market Street, where we were met by a cheerful helper, who opened the car door and announced, “Hi, I’m Jeremiah,” which was also tattooed on his left neck, should a vampire be interested in the brand name of his source. But, easy to overlook Jeremiah’s name tattoo amongst the other skin art on him and others. Branson also was helping with the design. He is topping two meters and heightened by a dyed black hair wave that brings to mind Hirokawa’s tsunami prints; a flip of the wave at the top gives him a lopsided look, which is straightened with a smile. As we hunkered over the TV, he was unloading broken branches for the windows.
The Diesel store is a triangular bankrupt bank building at Market and Stockton, opposite the Apple store. The building looks like the Flatiron building in NYC, an isosceles triangle to fit the pie-shaped corner. Diesel’s landlord gave them two choices for outside color: black or white. Diesel, being Diesel – edgy, a bit ahead, a touch (and then some) outré — picked black. The pockmarked black stone apex contrasted with the smooth grey and glass exterior of Apple’s box. Perhaps the sand-blasted glass overhang was the one connection with Apples sandblasted green-glass staircase.
Doors opened and there was a line, recession be damned. L. said that one of her twenty-something workers saves months to get a Diesel t; months more to score a pair of jeans, which will set you back at least couple of bills. Diesel afficionados know their jeans by the precise fabric, the cut and whether they were woven on special paper looms. We are first greeted by black-suited security guys – no Diesel styling for them, opening the doors at the apex of the corner. Behind them, the DJ was spinning away, mostly hip-hoppish or crunch, but an occasional Montovani version of Thriller. The store is purposely left raw: concrete showing, steel beams. Diesel wants an edgy look. To the left is a plywood wall with markers attached for graffiti. Only at L’s insistence did the Diesel guys cover the exterior window for the dressing rooms and put hooks and chair inside; otherwise, strollers on Stockton or emerging from the BART could have ogled you skinnying into your jeans or a Black gold top. Diesel was thinking Loehman’s back room; L. demanded more.
Diesel leased 5,000 s ft. of three floors, then ripped out two floors to have a two-story store. The details and how L. worked on these, watching hawk-like over the past 15 months are impressive. For instance, most shopping is done between knee and shoulder height. Many stores use two racks, putting your eyes somewhere between the hems of the skirts above and the waistbands of those below (or the sleeve ends of the suits above and the padded shoulders of those below, for men). Diesel tries to maximize. They asked that the structural “bones” of the store be incorporated into the selling. Poured lateral concrete anti-earthquake “shins” were to serve double-duty as display shelves just south of the patellae. (One could also take a rest on these, if one could find a moment of rest in the midst of frenzy.) But, the contractor poured the cement floor some eighteen inches too low, putting the display “shins” at waist level. First, it took L. to notice the half-million dollar error. Then it took months of forehead-to-forehead negotiation to get them to add a wooden floor over the concrete slab to raise the floor to proper height. I noticed L. and the VP of Diesel enjoying bouncing on their elevated wooden floor, like on trampolines.
Our donated TV was paired with another at the back of the store’s first floor, the jeans region. The TV’s showed a snow pattern; on their faces I had watched the artist paint “straight legs” and “boot cut”, letting the red paint dribble down the screens’ chins. I nonchalantly checked the fabric of some jeans hanging by hook on display, when a comely saleslady asked if she could help. I said I was only looking and she mentioned that the men’s section was over there. Couldn’t tell the jeans’ genes without a scorecard. The different models of jeans are displayed on a rod, with lengthy descriptions on each artificially aged tag: this one was woven on special rice-paper looms to give it the wrinkled look; another had built-in holes and rips.
Diesel takes pride in hiring artists to do their clothing design, keep them at least a year ahead of the couture-curve. The display tables are all from Italy: vintage machines that now supported the rag trade. The central column around which the staircase hung was covered in a hammered chromey sheathing. V. asked if the Diesel people were able to hammer out their aggressions on this display. Atop the staircase were more upscale togs. The design was clever. An $800 delicate black leather guy’s jacket had award medals embossed within. When I felt the jacket, I realzed that these were not embossed but embedded between the leather and lining, pressed into the leather. There were delicate women’s jackets that looked leather but were of soft fabric. A women’s woven top had its back slit above and below, revealing a touch of shoulder and a hint of waist in a light neutral acqua. The Black gold brand, which seems to be for the over 30’s who wish for Diesel but won’t do high-top sneakers, torn jeans and t’s, are in the apse of the top floor. Above a central table is a glittery ball, like those which once rotated above dance floors; on the table were well-beaten brass instruments over which were draped ties, socks. The t’s seemed particularly favored. Most were made in India, L. remarking on the softness of the cotton there; the designs either said Diesel or shouted something Dieseleze.
Back downstairs in the far left corner is Diesel for kids.
Diesel sneakers were worn by all the staff, including F. the VP from New York. Parisian, he sports a blackV-neck sweater, V-d further by his aviator sunglasses. On his feet were the old-fashioned high-tops we used to sport for Basketball pre-Jordan, but refashioned. Some were laced on the bias; some had a touch of Prada.
V. and L., the partners who found this property, oversaw the lease and building and got Diesel into it, parked themselves with F., the Diesel VP on the lower landing of the staircase, admiring, chatting, appreciating what they had accomplished.
Now, to find a pair of jeans that would fit me.