INTERVIEW: Fashion Indie Sits Down With Renzo Rosso
Oct 23, 2009 - by Corey Moran
Yesterday could not have been any more perfect. The weather was warm and sunny, I had just finished doing a walk through of one of my favorite showrooms in Soho, and now I was on my way into the Diesel building to meet up with the living legend Renzo Rosso. As if I wasn't in enough of a state of disbelief that I was lucky enough to meet Mr. Rosso, I was completely blown away by the amazing showroom/headquarters they are working in. As pushed through the heavy doors that read "Only The Brave..." I knew what/who was waiting on the other side, and I couldn't wait to pick the brain of the man responsible arguably the most famous denim brand of all time.
Fashion Indie: "Diesel U:Music and your global parties bring out some of the best new musical artists in the industry. Are their any artists/bands you are currently listening to?"
Renzo Rosso: [in his Italian inspired English which tends to hypnotize you] "Well I grew up in the rock and roll era, listening to artists like Black Sabbath and The Sex Pistols. A lot of this rock and roll attitude has definitely played a big part in what Diesel has become. However, I think all music is important. [Right now] All I really listen to is the Diesel U:Music radio station. They always play a wide variety of music, and have two live performances everyday. This has taught me to draw inspiration from whatever is happening at that moment, whether it be Kanye West, Pharrell, Rage Against The Machine, or Madonna all music is important. I have recently found their attitudes more and more inspirational, and that's what I like to bring out in my clothing."
FI: "You're being honored with the Corporate Leadership Award at the 26th Annual Night of the Stars gala. Be honest, did you ever imagine Diesel getting this big?"
RR: "I think most people dream of being big of course, but they never really believe it until they hit that turning point. Once I knew I had established my brand, I could really focus on making it as big as I could. That is an amazing feeling, a feeling that I will never forget. While it felt like forever when it was happening, looking back it feels like it happened overnight."
FI: "What do you attribute to this success?"
RR: "One thing that we have always tried to be with Diesel is pioneers. We are always introducing new, modern, different, fresh, and rebellious products that take both denim and the people wearing it to a whole new place. [However], I think the two biggest keys to our success were our vintage denim and the way we changed the way we communicated with our customers. Our vintage denim was something that no one else was doing at the time. We were the only ones able to produce a denim that had a look and feel of a great vintage pair of denim. This really helped to launch both Diesel and the industry into a new way of production. As I mentioned, our communication methods changed too. Most people were going direct saying 'Here's the product, buy it'. We decided to get away from that, and find a whole new way to communicate with our people. We decided to communicate through other people, the people our customers were listening to. We started working with celebrities, musicians, athletes to communicate in a more subtle way."
FI: "You live an adventurous life, filled with hundreds of successes. Through all of that, one is bound to make some mistakes. Do you have any major regrets? Anything you wish you could change?"
RR: "I wish that I would have done more charity work. Don't get me wrong I have and still do a lot, but I wish I would have made it more public. I recently met with the Dalai Lama and he told me 'Use your brand and your face to show the work you have done. You have the power to inspire others, and you should take pride in what you have done.' I have learned from that and plan to use my face and my power to send a positive message. In fact, we are currently working on building a village in Africa."
FI: "In a world full of denim brands you have always managed to be one of the leaders in the industry. What has Diesel done that others haven't?"
RR: "We produce a very unique denim. We have 51 years of history in manufacturing denim, and that has translated into quite the reputation amongst the industry. A lot of people don't realize that a majority of the denim brands you find in the United States started off as Diesel affiliates. We have such amazing production facilities that they often work in the same factories as us, or they have worked at Diesel at some point in their careers. Diesel has gone on to foster a lot of these brands because of this."
FI: "I am a big fan of your new fragrance 'Only The Brave', and judging by the way it was plastered all over your offices, you love it too. So do you wear the fragrance?"
RR: "I actually do wear the fragrance. I have produced many in the past, but this is the only one I wear [as he offers me to take a whiff of his scarf (I decline mostly because I could smell it prior to asking the question)]. Men's fragrances are hard do, because I feel like they need to match the natural scent of a man's skin."
FI: "You are about to release your Flash For Fun collection, which contains a reflective material that glows under UV light. What was the inspiration behind this idea?"
RR: "Honestly? My kids. They came up to me saying they wanted something bright, new and fun, and this is what I gave them They loved all the pieces and the concept, and I decided that if they liked it why wouldn't all my customers. My kids are great because they keep me really connected with what's young and cool. This is a road I plan to take Diesel down now that I have successfully developed my Diesel Black Gold collection. Diesel is going to take a much more fun young feel, and Diesel Black Gold is going to be our high fashion line. I'm really excited to continue differentiating to two."
[I get the dreaded wrap it up look from the other PR people in the room, and that signals the end despite the five questions I'm still dying to ask.]
I would like to thank all the people at Diesel who made this interview possible, my good friend Karli, and of course Mr. Rosso for the amazing opportunity.
For more on Diesel and Diesel U: Music be sure to check out their website.