MILAN — For someone who admits he's grown up inspired by the "American dream," Renzo Rosso's acquisition of a 12-story building in New York is a physical measure of his success.
In an exclusive interview, Diesel's founder said he has purchased a 120,000-square-foot office building at 220-230 West 19th Street (between Seventh and Eighth Avenues) to "offer more visibility to the group's products and to further grow and strengthen its American operations."
The building will become the new headquarters for Diesel USA Inc., quadrupling the company's existing office space in New York. For the first time, it will unite all the brands under the Only The Brave Srl umbrella — Diesel, Staff International and Maison Martin Margiela — and show all licensed products. In addition to Diesel Kid, Diesel Intimates, Diesel Props (shoes and bags) and 55DSL, each floor will be dedicated to the collections produced by Staff International: Diesel Denim Gallery, Margiela and Dsquared.
"I've gone crazy looking for the right space for the past four years," said Rosso. "I've seen so many spaces, but it's very difficult to find a building that is entirely empty, and I was particularly struck by this one because it is an industrial building from the 1920s — I've always loved antiquities, I live in a house from the 18th century and own a boat from the 1920s, too."
Rosso said the building, a former billiards club and multi-tenanted office space, "has a fantastic structure," which does not need much work. Diesel's in-house interior design department will be in charge of the renovation and styling.
"We need to make changes so that each floor will reflect the style of the brand or designer allocated," said Rosso, who declined to reveal the amount he is spending on the building.
It is an investment made on the heels of a similar one in Milan, where Rosso has purchased a 75,000-square-foot building on five floors in the Via Tortona district, one of the hottest real estate areas in the city. Rosso said he plans for both buildings to be operating in October 2007.
The Milan building will mirror the concept of the New York one, although Rosso has no plans to move the group's headquarters from Molvena, in the Veneto area. "These buildings will be a way for the market to identify the group and to understand that these brands are under the same umbrella," said Rosso.In New York, Rosso said he plans to develop the former billiards club into "an entertainment space" that he will "open to the public as a bar and restaurant," as well as create an exhibition space.
Currently, revenues in the U.S. for the group amount to $180 million. Rosso said he plans to reach $500 million in the next five years. Last year, consolidated group revenues hit $1.4 billion worldwide. Diesel owns and operates 36 retail stores in the U.S., five of which are in New York. Next year, a Margiela shop will open in Los Angeles, and Rosso said he is scouting locations for new Diesel boutiques in the U.S.
Rosso added that he has no plans to hold a runway show at the new New York building. The upcoming Diesel show in New York will be held on Sept. 13. "We've made many changes and, for the first time, asked an outside stylist, Patti Wilson, to collaborate," said Rosso.
The show has been moved to the late afternoon, at 6:30 p.m. versus the noon slot last season, and will be held at Cipriani for the first time. "This location is more in line with the Diesel world," said Rosso.
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