Video | La Dolce Denim

Diesel, from the spring issue of MID

The Diesel store at Cherry Creek Mall has a new location and a new look. But buyer beware–with a design that’s as inviting as it is luxurious you’ll find yourself never wanting to leave.

On my way to visit Cherry Creek’s revamped Diesel store for the first time, I find myself ushered into a massive line by a young man in a blue t-shirt. Realizing I’m one of only a handful of people at the mall prior to open NOT waiting for the new iPhone, I move ahead. Just short of being declared a line-cutting cheater, I veer past Diesel’s Mohican warrior emblem and find sanctuary in the symbiotic interplay of materiality between the store’s retail space and clothing.

Diesel’s new location, next to Apple, has some shoppers mistaking it for a new addition to the mall. In fact, Cherry Creek has had a Diesel location for the past ten years, though the original location made the store a little bit of a hidden gem. “We’re much more visible from downstairs. You can see the new store from Starbucks.” says the store manager, Susan Jantzer. “Before we were kind of tucked underneath a ledge. People would be looking for the store and accidentally walk around the corner and right past it. Now we’re visible from every direction.”

A conspicuous spot next to one of the mall’s busiest stores isn’t the only change that’s made Cherry Creek’s Diesel more visible. Like Diesel’s other mall stores, Cherry Creek’s previous location had a façade that presented a sort of “street face” to the corridor — large window displays and a door marking the entryway. This is one of Diesel’s first stores to be designed without such enclosure; a change that Daniele Minestrini, Diesel’s Head of Interior Design, sees as a positive shift for the brand.

“One of the things I love the most about the store is the façade,” says Minestrini. “It’s something that we’ve done for the first time and I find the message very, very strong. It’s something that has changed drastically in the last year or so as a design concept. Before we always had doors that were open – and closed to the public. Now you might say we are more welcoming. It also allows one to see the store inside much better and perceive the architecture and interior design, which for me is very important. It has increased the traffic and sales drastically, so we will definitely carry on with this approach.” Now when an item catches your eye as you rush past, there are no barriers to block the shopping tractor beam as it forms.

The new approach to the store’s façade gives all who pass a look at the store’s new design. Minestrini developed the creative elements in this space with inspiration from the same design drivers that propel both the clothing and the entire Diesel brand – a contrast between finished and unfinished. “In terms of the creativity,” he says, “the DNA of the company, which is also my DNA, has always been based on the mix and contrast of elements that can be totally rough and not finished at all with elements that are very detailed with high-end finishes.”

This contrast is evident in the store’s materiality. The design features four primary materials – untreated black metal utilized in the façade and the shelving fixtures, wood in the form of hardwood floors, MDF panels used throughout, and concrete Wonderboards. Minestrini’s use of Wonderboards truly embodies the use of an “unfinished” material in the space. “This is a construction material that is usually used to insulate walls and floors,” says Minestrini. “But I found it is very beautiful in the way it’s made. So I decided to keep it exposed and give this material a new life, a new value. To take something that when it’s born, it’s born a poor material that shouldn’t even be seen and with attention to details bring it to the front and give it new importance and relevance.”

The store’s fixtures are designed with flexibility and mobility in mind. The shelving heights are adjustable and metal drawer units glide easily around on wheels, allowing Jantzer to transition easily from season-to-season rearrangements of the space. “The mobile fixturing makes the space a lot more functional,” she says. “We can focus on coats when we need to focus on coats, we can focus on swim when we need to focus on swim. We can change it up so that it fits the customer’s needs better.”

Another mobile element of the store is the use of repurposed antique pieces to display the products – adding singularity and warmth to the space. These pieces are sourced from both Europe and the US and refitted in an European workshop to suit their retail purposes.

Right now if you go to Diesel to buy a pair of jeans you’ll find two different finishes – a completely raw denim – crisp and dark, a blank canvas waiting for the owner to add characteristic worn-in spots; and a distressed denim which has hand-applied whiskering and wear. This represents another iteration of Diesel’s finished/unfinished DNA. The clothing, the retail space and the brand have at least one other shared characteristic – Italian heritage. The company was started in 1978 by Italian “Jeans Genius” (thus declared by Suzy Menkes, icon in fashion and style expertise) Renzo Rosso. Every pair of Diesel jeans is still handmade in Italy. The Diesel stores are even handmade in Italy and assembled locally by Italian craftsmen. “Everything has been built in Italy and proudly shipped to the United States,” says Minestrini (also Italian). “Not because we don’t trust American production or anything, but because we want to carry the same feeling and the same emotions that we do when we make a pair of jeans in Italy. And because of the long-term relationship that we have with our vendors in Italy every time we design a store we always go one step higher and forward from where we were before. It’s a very passionate process that always gives very good results.”

Very, very good results. So good that shoppers may stay just a little longer than they’d expected. Tucked in the back of the store the changing-room area is as much a hangout as it is a place to try on clothing. A bench sourced from Denver’s own Mod Livin’, a table stocked with reading materials and a steady stream of house music create a cozy atmosphere where strangers become friends and shoppers have a retinue at their disposal for those tough shopping decisions. “We’ve never been a ‘buy something and get out’ type of company. We want people to stay, we want them to feel comfortable,” says Jantzer. “It’s becoming more of a village in the back than anything else – people are definitely hanging out. I hope that they feel very comfortable and I think they do.”

Cherry Creek’s Diesel shoppers will be among the first to experience the company’s new direction in retail design. A new direction that Minestrini finds very exciting- which after nearly eleven years with Diesel and designing 348 stores for the brand is saying something. “I’m very happy with the quality of the finishes and for how the overall environment came out,” he says. “I have to say it’s a very positive result. I think we have created very much our image and presence in the Cherry Creek mall, which is very important for us.”

Words: Kristin McCartney Mann
Images: Trevor Brown Jr. & Paul Winner