“Mamma Mia, how interesting!”
In his signature informal and easygoing manner, this is what Renzo Rosso exclaimed when he first saw Dean and Dan Caten’s designs.
This story first appeared in the January 16, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“I was in Antwerp and I was struck by their creativity, started watching them and followed their work. By coincidence, they were looking for someone to produce their collections,” he recalled.
These initial steps led to a fruitful and lengthy collaboration. First inked in 2001, the license between Dsquared2 and Rosso’s manufacturing arm Staff International, under the entrepreneur’s OTB umbrella, was renewed in 2010 for another 17 years.
To be sure, Rosso’s relationship with the designers runs deeper than most. “We don’t feel like their licensees, but rather as part of a family. We have an excellent rapport professionally, but we are also friends, which is a rarity,” explained the entrepreneur. Case in point: the designers call Rosso “papi,” the affectionate Italian term for “daddy.” In turn, he calls the twins “figlioletti belli” (“my cute boys”).
They take vacations together and Rosso said recurring holiday stints include “a weekend in Ibiza and an evening in Mykonos.”
While the Catens retain their image of “joyful kids,” Rosso underscored their growing maturity over the years and their “incredible professionalism” as the company expands around the world, also leveraging a deep knowledge of their customers. “They themselves are their own customers, the same as I was with Diesel — Diesel was me. There is nothing better than when the product is for yourself. You are your own thermometer — no need for market research,” he contended.
Rosso touted the designers’ “modern” looks, which he believes epitomize “luxury casual wear — well-made, not garish, in good taste — which makes you feel different and good, but not ridiculous. These are real, contemporary clothes that people wear when they leave their houses, for day and night, for many hours and in the cool places. I adore them.”
Asked if he’d consider taking a stake in Dsquared2, Rosso, who has built a fashion pole under OTB that comprises, in addition to Diesel, brands ranging from Marni to Martin Margiela, said that, “obviously, to become their partner would be a dream for me. But we do have a long contract. We respect each other and we know each other very well, it’s two-way.
“We are doing well together and we are building our businesses together,” said Rosso, noting that the Dsquared2 business totals more “than 150 million euros [$186 million] for Staff International. We see exceptional sell out.”