MOLVENA, Italy — Diesel’s growth engine doesn’t run on just one type of fuel.
While the company’s eponymous high-end jeans line remains the core of the business, the firm over the past few years has expanded its brand portfolio through spin-offs from the main line, such as 55DSL and Diesel StyleLab, and acquisitions, which have included controlling interests in the Martin Margiela design house and in DSquared. Diesel’s high-end operations also include the ready-to-wear producer, Staff International.
The expansion has started Diesel down the road to becoming something of a casual-luxury conglomerate
But the company’s owner, Renzo Rosso, denied the deals have been part of any concerted strategy.
"I never meant to buy companies—nothing was planned," Rosso said during an interview in his Molvena office.
Rosso said he bought Staff International in 2000 because it was filing for bankruptcy and that he could not allow "one of the best manufacturing companies in the world, with an incredible know-how, to simply disappear."
Diesel had just licensed the company to produce its StyleLab collections.
"I had to make a decision and quickly — the company was ours in a week," he said. Rosso said it took two years to streamline what he called an unnecessarily complicated structure.
"There were so many problems and nothing was logical or organized," said Rosso. He added the company is now finally in the black, after a complete revolution on the creative side, as well.
Rosso terminated licenses with Mila Schön, Salvatore Ferragamo, Atsuro Tayama, Ungaro and Bella Freud, and discontinued the owned brand, Gym. The only production contract Rosso has maintained is with Vivienne Westwood.
Last fall, Rosso took control of the Martin Margiela brand, a former Staff license, and more recently, he sold off the New York Industrie brand to the Italian firm, McAdams, saying that he wanted Staff to focus on the Margiela and DSquared businesses.
The Staff business was a key connection point between Margiela and Rosso, who does not hide a special penchant for the elusive designer and looks forward to the "enormous possibilities" of his brand."Margiela is an incredibly intelligent and talented man," said Rosso, who sees similarities in the essence of Margiela’s brand and the Diesel label. "Both are based on the vintage culture."
While Diesel is a $660 million international powerhouse, Rosso says he wants to develop Margiela’s small business without compromising its exclusivity.
"Rosso’s acquisition strategy is not based on a need to grow sales but on the incorporation of new, innovative ideas, and independent creative minds," said Carlo Pambianco, a Milan-based luxury goods analyst.
Rosso said Diesel has strengthened, expanded and developed the "heart" of Margiela’s business, the style office and atelier in Paris.
"We don’t want to lose the philosophy of the maison, so that will remain there," said Rosso, adding that Staff handles production, logistics and shipments.
Rosso said that, starting with the spring-summer 2004 collection, Diesel has licensed the Margiela’s knitwear division to McAdams, which also produces for Cividini. Margiela’s knits were previously produced by Miss Deanna, acquired last year by Giorgio Armani and account for around 35 percent of the designer’s collection. "This is the right proportion, we are not going to change it," said Rosso.
Rosso said he feels a personal connection to the Margiela brand, something he considers critical: "A brand must be connected to a father, to a heart that beats and must be an expression of the designer that creates it. I either feel a brand or I cannot work with it."
Inside Diesel, most of the design team has been working for the company for more than a decade, a rarity in this business.
"We have more than 50 creative minds at work here, and I like to be with young, trendy people who expand my boundaries with their music and language," said Rosso.
Rosso’s talent for managing designers is put to the test working with the Dan and Dean Caten, the twins behind the DSquared label, who are possibly the personality opposites of Margiela.
Where Margiela is introspective, intellectual and secretive, the Canadian Catens are flamboyant, party loving and exuberant."With Martin, it is enough to explain the reasons behind a strategic decision, and he’ll understand; with the twins I realized they would rather learn from their mistakes," said Rosso. Rosso, who handles marketing and communication for DSquared, said that he has a "fantastic relationship" with the Catens.
The men’s and recently debuted women’s collections have received strong responses. Rosso described them as being as explosive as an "atomic bomb."
For the first women’s collection, for fall-winter 2003, Rosso said he had expected sales of about $1.4 million, but actual results came in double that level. Total business has grown from about $1 million to $19 million since Diesel in 2001 signed its 10-year agreement to produce and distribute the line.
Rosso said he sees Margiela’s business as stable and having longevity. He called DSquared a "fresh, casual luxury" brand that he will watch as it progresses, "checking how much it is connected to at this moment."
Diesel also produces Karl Lagerfeld’s jeans for Lagerfeld Gallery. Rosso said he was "honored" to be working with the designer, who he called a "fashion icon."
"Karl Lagerfeld is a symbol of creativity, tradition and changes," Rosso said. "His choosing Diesel...is an important gift for me, and an acknowledgment of our unbeatable know-how in denim and the confirmation of our reputation as a casual ready-to-wear brand."
Rosso described the constellation of the Diesel brands as "fitting together and not disjointed: Diesel StyleLab is the creative tip, 55DSL is the extreme-sports line, Staff International targets a modern, trendy rtw, DSquared is the high-end casual line and Margiela the refined modern product."
My character, Dinah Madani, is just the coolest, [most] badass woman imaginable," says @amberroserevah. The actress stars in @marvel's newest series on @netflix, @thepunisher. To prepare for her role, Revah sat down with Homeland agents to get a real sense of with Dinah's day-to-day life is really like. Read our full interview on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
A scene from the 91st annual @macys Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade, which boasts 50 million TV viewers and 3.5 million on-site spectators, is considered one of the largest and most watched parades in the world. (📷: Jason Szenes/EPA-REX)
The circus came to @bloomingdales 59th Street on Tuesday night and lit up Lexington Avenue with acrobatic dancers, death-defying knife throwing, sword swallowing and aerial acts with no net. The 45 minutes of theatrics built up to unveiling the holiday windows depicting @swarovski crystal-encrusted circus pieces and scenes from “The Greatest Showman” – songs from the soundtrack included. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Joshua Scott)
The psychedelic fashion that pervaded the ’60s is back with an exhibit at the @museumofcityny. “Mode New York: Fashion Takes a Trip” chronicles the changing styles from 1960 through 1973 and features designers such as @ysl, @oscardelarenta and more. The exhibition, which is on display through April 1, is organized into four periods: First Lady Fasion, Youthquake, New Bohemia and New Nonchalance. Pictured here is model Pat Bardonella during the Garvey Day Parade in 1968. (📷: @kwamebphoto) #wwdeye #wwdfashion
“People should be a lot more honest in expressing both the dark and light of themselves. We need to give each other the space to do that because it’s the only way we can grow and evolve,” says @noelwells of her new film “Mr. Roosevelt,” which is largely based on her own struggles. Unexpectedly leaving @nbcsnl in 2014 after just one season, Wells felt set back in her self-esteem and career trajectory. She quickly refocused her energy to more personal projects, which led to the completion of “Mr. Roosevelt.” Read the rest of WWD’s interview with the “Master of None” actress on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
@barbrastreisand is giving fans a chance to see her perform up close in a new concert series, which makes its debut on @Netflix today. From behind-the-scenes takes to her concert performance in Miami last December, the two-hour streaming special captures Streisand in her element. Pictured here is the singer/actress photographed for WWD in 1963. (📷: Palmieri Tony) #wwdeye #wwdarchive
@chanel and @pharrell dropped what’s being dubbed as the world’s most exclusive sneakers yesterday. The Adidas Originals NMD Hu, which Williams designed in collaboration with Chanel and @adidasoriginals, has a waiting list of over 120K people who pre-registered online at chanelatcolette.fr –– and only 500 pairs are on sale. The singer predicted the resale value of the shoes could reach $40K. Read the full interview on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdfashion (📷: Dominique Maître)
@imanshumpert is diving deeper into his creative endeavors and relaunching his clothing line, Post 90s, and is helping to raise money for the hurricane victims in St. Maarten with a jersey he’s designed with his brother. The Cleveland Cavaliers player talked to WWD about kneeling during the national anthem, working with fashion brands and how he wants to be more than an @nba player. Read the interview on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)