Nicola Formichetti's 50 Rules for Successful Living

IMAGE Diesel

Life is tough; but so are you. Why not live on your own terms?

Such is the proposition made by Diesel’s Rules for Successful Living project whereby a set of pithy one-liners distill a philosophy, a way of life, a mantra if you will, or simply an attitude, that you could pick up and run with, if you so choose. If it fits you, then it’s yours.

“It’s about giving some fun guidelines to what it means to be successful, and to live successfully on your own terms in today’s world,” says designer Nicola Formichetti, three years into the job as Diesel’s artistic director and way past the meat dress he once styled for Lady Gaga. You could say he and Diesel parent-company OTB (Only the Brave) were made for each other; Diesel’s Rules certainly apply. “A lot of those rules are appropriate for me, I am all about being brave and trying new things!” he says.


Renzo Rosso and Nicola Formichetti

Traceable to a '90s campaign that took an ironical stance on what “success” means—and how it could possibly be linked with denim jeans (subtext: it can’t, not unless you’re Renzo Rosso)—this newest iteration of Diesel’s Rules seems less caustic. The cheeky humor is still there, the silliness, the bold posturing characteristic of Diesel, but now the emphasis is more on playfulness rather than snarky perversity. Because, honestly, where’s the pun in that?

“Diesel has always been about statement but it also has a lot of humor, hence the new for successful living has some ‘fun pun’ to it,” says Formichetti. “These days I believe you need to transmit a positive message, it’s not about shocking; it’s about being positive and inclusive.”

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To demonstrate just how inclusive Diesel is as brand—and as a community that welcomes creative expression—they feature a cast of colorful characters of differing age, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation (No. 36: “Stretch your mind” has two women bared to the waist, shot from the back, each with one hand on her own hip and the other inside the back pocket of her companion’s jeans). Styling is just as diverse: The mix of denim with varied colors and prints, touching on influences from Europe to Asia and back, pushes the messaging that there’s something for everybody if you would only, Rule No. 2, “Open your mind.”

Each rule is visually interpreted by collaborating photographer Terry Richardson, whose choices run the gamut from racy (No. 9: “Be brave” shows a male model shucking his jeans), to teasing (No. 17: “Give back” has a female model showing off her jacket-clad back, exposing a mere sliver of bare skin), to tongue-in-cheek (No. 13: “Never tire” featuring a tattooed male model, well, nonchalantly carrying a tire).


Hard to choose, says Formichetti, among the images his friend Richardson has created. “His work is iconic and he also has the irony and the fun as a part of his work that totally fits the Diesel spirit,” says the designer. “There are a lot of different levels you can read in those images, and the interpretations come from what you have in mind when you look at it.”  

Since the Internet’s pastime is to curate human experience, listicles itemizing lifehacks now abound—the better to muddle through the mess of everyday living. For anyone used to flying by the seat of their pants, it does no harm to seek a little direction, even some validation, in someone else’s story. But Diesel reminds us that everyone has a story, a piece of the mosaic, a life rule to share. “The 50th rule is actually ‘make your own rule,’ it’s up to you to keep the project going,” says Formichetti. “It’s an ongoing conversation with the world.”

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