By  on February 5, 2008

MILAN — With oil close to the $100 a barrel mark, it's perhaps only appropriate for Diesel to launch a new label called Black Gold.

Aimed at a higher end of the market compared with the Diesel or Diesel Denim Gallery lines, Black Gold makes its debut today with a runway show during New York Fashion Week. "We are required to offer more and more exclusive products to meet the market's demand," said Diesel chief Renzo Rosso during an interview at the company's new sprawling showroom in Milan's fashion district of Via Tortona/Via Savona, where designers such as Giorgio Armani have headquarters. "We must aim high, in all categories."

In line with this strategy, the collection has more fashion content and uses more expensive fabrics. Diesel Black Gold will be distributed in the company's key flagships, including those in New York's SoHo and London's Bond Street. "We want the line to be positioned on the contemporary floor of stores such as Barneys New York," said Rosso. Other retail outlets will include Harvey Nichols and Selfridges in London; Saks Fifth Avenue, New York; Isetan, Tokyo; Galeries Lafayette, Paris, and Luisa Via Roma, Florence. Prices range from $500 to $800 for tailored jackets and from $200 to $350-$400 for shirts and pants — twice as much as Diesel.

The collection has a dedicated design team supervised by Diesel's creative director Wilber Das, and factories in Italy that produce this line alone. In an exclusive preview, Das pointed to the soft, oversize and loose shapes, multiple layerings and touch of activewear, all reminiscent of the Eighties. "The overall theme is soft power," he said.

Fabrics include silk, nylon and jersey in a powdery, natural color palette enriched with streaks of blue and green, or graphic, Art Deco geometric patterns. Cuts range from egg-shaped dresses or draped sleeves to carrot-fit pants. Unique treatments also enrich fabrics. Case in point: a jacket made with calf leather that is creased and has a patent shine. The company doesn't stray from its core business, adding a number of denim pieces. "In Diesel Black Gold, though, these are much more fashion-oriented and sartorial," said Das. "The focus is on style and cuts, and denim is treated as a precious fabric."The company, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2008, has a string of retail projects planned for the year, with store openings in Tokyo's Ginza in April, in Hong Kong in May and in Milan in September. A flagship appears to be in the works on Fifth Avenue as well, although the company has not confirmed the move.

Diesel is also expanding its product offering with new categories. In January, the company signed a licensing agreement with Zucchi Group for a home linens collection, which will be followed by furniture, lighting and objects for the home next year.

In 2007, revenues at Only the Brave Srl, which controls Diesel, rose 13 percent to 1.3 billion euros, or $1.78 billion at average exchange rates for the period. Diesel accounts for 90 percent of the group's sales, and its revenues grew 11 percent. Only the Brave also controls production arm Staff International, which holds a master license with Dsquared, and owns the Martin Margiela and Sophia Kokosalaki businesses.

Rosso said sales of five-pocket denim jeans for women's grew 7 percent with the spring-summer collection, and 8 percent for men's. Sales of the pre-fall-winter 2008 collection grew 20 percent.

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