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Making Waves

Diesel founder and owner Renzo Rosso met with DNR for a sushi lunch at Lure and talked about his three decades building his $2 billion business.

Diesel founder and owner Renzo Rosso hit New York last week for the brand’s 30th anniversary extravaganza, featuring a concert for thousands by M.I.A., Franz Ferdinand, T.I., Chaka Khan, Hot Chip and N.E.R.D. on the Brooklyn waterfront. A few hours prior to the mega-fête, Rosso met with DNR for a sushi lunch at Lure and talked about his three decades building his $2 billion business—which now includes controlling stakes in Martin Margiela and Viktor & Rolf, and distribution licenses for DSquared and Vivienne Westwood.

DNR: So, how does it feel to have reached this major milestone?
RENZO ROSSO: I saw the people who were waiting in line at our stores to buy our limited-edition anniversary jeans and I was very emotional. I cried yesterday. I think about the 30 years and it was very hard work. I suffered for every single step of our success. And the U.S. was the hardest market to break into. But to see how much young people love us, it was incredible.

DNR: Do you still work full-time on Diesel? What areas do you focus on?
RR: Normally, I go to work on Monday at midday and I leave at 6 p.m. And then I go on vacation. [Laughs.] No, I am a hard worker. I go to work 8:30 in the morning and I like to go home by 6, because I like to meet my trainer and do something for my body. If you are in shape, you have better energy all day long. Sometimes when I am fat, I get tired. I work on the creative areas. It can be interior design, advertising or the collections. I think our company is unique in terms of having very professional people, but simple people.

DNR: Would you ever consider taking the company public?
RR: No. Financially we are okay and can finance all our own activities. And now my children have started to work in the company. When you are public, you have to spend so much time playing the numbers. And you miss the focus of who you want to be and maybe you can destroy the brand.

DNR: And now you’re making a big investment in a Fifth Avenue flagship.
RR: It’s 18,000 square feet with 110 to 120 employees. When it opens in February, it will be the biggest Diesel store in the world, and will sell 1,000 units a day. We are creating an entirely new facade for the building, taking off the ceilings, putting in new stairs. It is such a big investment. But this is the most important town in the world, so it must be the most important store. This is my dream. Japan is the biggest business for Diesel, with the U.S., Italy and the U.K. behind. But next year, the U.S. will become the biggest business.

DNR: What are your upcoming goals for Diesel?
RR: With brands today, the consumer wants an entire lifestyle. We have started to develop home lines, with furniture and lamps. We just launched a limited-edition car with Fiat and are selling 10,000 units. And I want to expand our luxury Black Gold collection from 300 doors to 1,000.

DNR: What are your plans for Margiela, Viktor & Rolf and DSquared?
RR: I am very excited about Viktor & Rolf. The first collection [under Diesel’s ownership] will be fall/winter ’09. We won’t be ready to open stores for them for maybe two years, after we have developed shoes and bags and belts—the whole lifestyle. But that is the direction we are going in. Margiela is already developed, so we do plan more stores. With DSquared, it’s a license. We are doing the best we can for them. More than this we cannot do. When the contract renewal comes up in three more years, we will see.

DNR: Do you have your eye on any other brands?
RR: No, no, no. We have the right number. I want to spend time to develop them. To do it right, you can’t have too many. You can write this: no more brands.