Last week, something that by all appearances was a small knockoff store popped up out of nowhere on Canal Street in New York. It looked pretty much like any other knockoff store—plastic hangers; neon “sale” and “buy 2, get 1 free” signs in slightly messy handwriting; and boxes upon boxes of sweaters, shirts and other items piled in the middle of the small store. It definitely wasn’t a place a fashion brand that wants to be taken seriously during New York Fashion Week would dare be found.
But Diesel saw it differently.
The brand worked with production company Rival School Pictures and creative agencies Publicis New York and Publicis Italy to secure prime real estate on Canal Street and open a fake store Thursday selling what appeared to be knockoff apparel.
The brand went so far as to purposely misspell its own name to make the store seem authentically fake. Inside the store—which was so exclusive it was only open for two days and then closed for good—shoppers found white T-shirts with a red “Deisel” logo emblazoned on it, racks of “Deisel” jeans in all colors and sizes and sweaters wrapped in individual plastic bags, messily piled on the shelves.
When Diesel revealed the fraudulent store was in fact full of authentic products, a massive line shot down the block the next morning. Fashion fiends and influencers wanted the chance to get their hands on any of the 1,000 unique pieces from the collection. Names from Gucci Mane to Francesca Colucci showed off the collection on social media to their 7.7 million and 16,400 followers, respectively.
The long lines and resale prices for coveted items from the collection proved the marketing stunt was clearly a success for the brand. Diesel chief marketing officer Dario Gargiulo noted that a “Deisel” sweatshirt that sold for $60 in the pop-up store was eventually resold for about $500.
It also shows the brand can reach a new generation of shoppers who thrive on finding and buying exclusive products and plays into a younger generation of shoppers who want more than just things—they want experiences.
“We all know that younger generations … don’t want to be cookie cutters or like everybody else,” said Nancy Berger, vp and publisher at Marie Claire. “They want to stand out and be a little bit their own. I think it’s all about personal branding for that generation. I would imagine the Diesel audience has gotten a little bit older. Now Diesel is seeing that they have to bring in a new generation. I think a stunt like this keeps them relevant.”
Opening up shop in a dingy storefront on Canal Street makes sense when you consider that Diesel also intended to make a statement about the fake designer fashion market that runs rampant in that area of Manhattan.
“There are so many fake products in the world,” Diesel founder Renzo Rosso said. “The fake products bring the brand down. So how can we use this to bring the brand up? We came up with this fantastic idea.”
Rosso explained that Canal Street was the perfect fit for the stunt. Most high-end brands would do a pop-up store or any retail location somewhere along Fifth Avenue or Madison but never dream of selling pretend knockoff items in the heart of the New York City’s knock0ff neighborhood.
“This area is famous for brands that have sometimes been exploited by other people, so I think it was almost audacious that we put our brand right in the heart of where knockoffs are famous globally,” said Andy Bird, chief creative officer, Publicis New York. “You say Canal Street, even to someone in England, and they know what that means.”
When Publics Italy and New York presented the idea to the client there was some hesitation. It was a bold idea to make a statement about the knockoff industry and a major statement for a brand that is trying to prove its relevance among younger shoppers.
The Deisel line and pop-up stunt is a further extension of the brand’s recent “Go With the Flaw” campaign. The work, from Publicis Italia, takes what some people might call flaws and celebrates them for their beauty.
“I think a brand like Diesel has the balls and the right to talk like this,” Bird said. “There aren’t many brands that would take a calculated risk like this, but because they kind of know that they already have the cachet with the past history of advertising, they’ve always been a bit more adventurous and it fits perfectly with their outlook.”