Renzo Rosso: No Stopping His Engine

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Published February 17, 2009

Renzo Rosso, courtesy of Diesel.

 

Diesel is best known for its fatigued denim, but if the brand has it their way, that is about to change. To get us excited about buying clothing (and watches, and lamps, and furniture) again, Diesel turns impressive, costly tricks: throwing 24-hour global music parties, sponsoring custom Fiats, and initiating conceptual installation art displays to to make their message clear: ours is an effortlessly attractive and edgy cool domain. Behind it all is Renzo Rosso, Diesel’s company founder, visual branding guru, and a self-proclaimed “denim man.” For Fashion Week, he’s hitting New York with full force: He’s in town to check out shows (he loved DVF), to take in a bit of culture, and to help launch the world’s largest Diesel store at its new Fifth Avenue location. The week’s main event is, again, his own: he presents his upscale line Diesel Black Gold this afternoon at Bryant Park. Beforehand he spoke to Interview about why, even now, he seeks refuge in rock & roll over recession proofing.

COLLEEN NIKA: What inspired what we will see at today’s Diesel show?

RENZO ROSSO: It’s playing with the idea of what musicians wear when they play live, especially focusing on the evolution of what a musician wears when they first start their career, when they are young and wild, to how they dress when they become famous and more polished. We are combining elements like tuxedos and workwear, for contrast; some looks also are based on 30s-era inspirations.

CN: Did music turn you onto fashion?

RR: I am from the Class of 1968: I am a rock & roll man, and therefore, a denim man. Musicians of any era—whether it be The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Rage Against the Machine, or, of course, Madonna—will inspire fashion. And we in turn will inspire them. I am continually influenced by the feeling that music culture captured in the late 60s—for my generation, it was a time to rebel, against our parents, against everything.

 

CN: Is it the same now?

RR: The concept of “rebellion” is different now. Then, we were angry and needed to rail against something in order to express ourselves. Your generation has everything—Facebook and all, so you have more outlets [LAUGHS]. You don’t need to be angry like we were: Different times call for different attitudes. But I love your generation because you are so creative and innovative in how you wear things, how you think, how you approach everything.

CN: Someone like Margiela is all about challenging conventions. He is now under the “umbrella” of the Diesel Group.

 

RR: Margiela is still the very best. For me, his is an ideal brand to help build—as a designer and person, he’s an enigma, but he’s also… most indescribable, like a hidden Prince of Fashion. If there’s a different way of doing something, he’ll find it.

CN: Who else do you find exciting?

RR: It’s always the modern, progressive designers. Besides Margiela, I love Marc Jacobs and Viktor & Rolf. And of course, the newer talents like Gareth Pugh and Christopher Kane.

CN: Is it this type of branding that makes fashion exciting to you right now?

RR: Yes, this is an exciting time if you still have the ability to see things through open eyes. In order for fashion to progress, we have to always be willing to invest in someone or something new and embrace risks, regardless of the economy.

CN: So, I suppose the recession won’t restrict the way you brand the Diesel empire?

RR: Actually, I am going say that we are happy with the recession! Because in a way, I think it is a good test for the premium market, which is saturated with too many brands and too many people right now. For a stable brand like Diesel, this is actually a great time to invest in opportunities and to keep building new levels to our. Diesel pioneered the idea of luxury denim, and we still drive this market. But it encompasses more: the consumers love the brand, the lifestyle, the mentality of Diesel. I mean, we’ve already done cars, and we’re opening this new store. We still are launching brand new concepts: we’re even about to premiere a new lamp and furniture line in Italy!

CN: Do you think there are misconceptions about Diesel as a brand? Will it forever be associated primarily with jeans?

RR: Well, of course, jeans are the core of our business. We specialize in it; we’re very good at it, but by now, Diesel is has become so much more. We’re always trying to the break boundaries of what a “denim brand” can be and we want to be respected for it. One day — maybe when I die! — I hope people will reflect upon Diesel and be able to say “yes, they really changed the world through denim!”