By  on May 29, 2008

Diesel chief executive officer Renzo Rosso celebrated the opening of the company's latest Diesel Planet flagship on Wednesday in Hong Kong, the second of four new locations slated to be up and running by early 2009.

"Hong Kong is the entry door to Asia," Rosso said in a phone interview. "It's the most important city, with commercial and sales offices, and endless company headquarters. Other cities aim at replicating it. Hong Kong is a crossroads and the exposure to consumers from all over the world is huge. For this reason, we needed a big space to show our full range."

Rosso said he invested about 4 million euros, or $6.3 million at current exchange, in the store. The unit covers 10,800 square feet over three floors.

Size and location are Rosso's top priorities when considering Diesel Planet flagships. The Hong Kong unit is the brand's seventh and largest store in the city, but Rosso said it took more than seven years to find the right location on the bustling and tony Queen's Road Central.

"The store had to be on this street, there was no alternative in my mind," he said.

Last month, Rosso was in Japan for the ribbon cutting of the Diesel Planet flagship in Tokyo's Ginza neighborhood. With Hong Kong open, the company will turn its attention to launching flagships in Milan and New York.

The brand's expanding accessories array, which includes footwear, bags, watches, jewelry, fragrances and eyewear, is on the ground floor in Hong Kong. And it is the first store to carry the company's new fashion collection, Diesel Black Gold, with a preview of the fall and winter seasons. A Diesel Denim Library takes center stage on the upper floor with an entire wall dedicated to the full range of the brand's iconic five-pocket pants.

Rosso said he aims to differentiate each store. For the Hong Kong flagship, he blended Eastern and Western inspirations, and juxtaposed modern and traditional, and luxury and casual influences.

A luminous copper facade at the entrance is placed against mesh-lined black glass. Industrial concrete walls contrast with antique wood panels and shelves, and white geometric 3-D tiled walls offset black crackled-slate floors. Herringbone wood floors sit next to carpeted dressing rooms and vintage chandeliers blend with high-tech lighting.Two leather bags and a pair of sunglasses — each in a limited edition of 28 pieces — were autographed by Rosso and actress Maggie Cheung and will be available at the Hong Kong store. Proceeds will benefit UNICEF's Special Relief Fund for Children Affected by the Sichuan Earthquake. Rosso and Cheung donated more than $250,000 each to the fund.

The Ginza boutique, also covering 10,800 square feet on three levels, is the largest in Japan. "Japan is the first country for us now," Rosso said.

Last year, the Japanese market generated sales of about 200 million euros, or $274 million at average exchange, representing about 16 percent of Diesel's revenues.

Although other major brands have experienced difficulties in the U.S. and Japanese markets, Rosso said he was pleased with Diesel's performance in both during the first few months of 2008. In Tokyo, Diesel introduced advanced technology touch screen mirrors that allow customers to freeze their images. They can then see themselves from the back or compare different outfits. A limited edition collection of denim bags and watches was also produced for the Ginza store.

Rosso said that the opening of the Fifth Avenue store in New York will have to be pushed back from November to the first months of 2009.

"There are very strict regulations on that street and we can't have work done round the clock," he said.

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