Fu­elled by the suc­cess of his denim em­pire and spurred on by ad­vice from the Dalai Lama, Diesel dy­namo Renzo Rosso is broad­en­ing his creative out­look. Sharon Krum re­ports.

The Australian - Wish Magazine - - Front Page -


he Dalai Lama is not a man one or­di­nar­ily thinks of as an or­a­cle of fash­ion. More con­cerned with teach­ing un­quiet souls about non-vi­o­lence and spir­i­tual growth, His Ho­li­ness seems an un­likely choice for a heart-to-heart about the de­mands of run­ning a global fash­ion brand. But Renzo Rosso, owner and CEO of Diesel (pic­tured), doesn’t see it that way. The 52-year-old is con­sid­ered a mav­er­ick in the trade, an Ital­ian cow­boy who has al­ways rid­den the un­con­ven­tional path. In Rosso’s world “there are no borders” and friend­ships are en­thu­si­as­ti­cally forged with all kinds of peo­ple, in­clud­ing the Dalai Lama.

“I tell him I want to stop work­ing,” Rosso re­calls of one con­ver­sa­tion. For a man who turned a small jeans com­pany into a $1.9 bil­lion um­brella em­pire com­plete with 270 Diesel stores – a new out­let opens in Chapel Street, Melbourne, this month and a lux­ury store will open on Syd­ney’s Castlereagh Street in De­cem­ber – this was a huge turn­ing point. “Maybe I can do more so­cial things,” he told the Dalai Lama. “But he said, you have to keep work­ing, be­cause the way you work is very spe­cial. With the money you pro­duce, you cre­ate jobs and you can do so­cial things.”

Is the way Diesel op­er­ates re­ally so unique the Dalai Llama wouldn’t let Rosso con­sider re­tire­ment? Ac­tu­ally, maybe. There will al­ways be brands whose busi­ness is built on icon­o­clasm, but Rosso drove the idea fur­ther, mak­ing a for­tune be­ing fash­ion­ably “anti-fash­ion”. So now he finds him­self a force to be reck­oned with, which may be hard to rec­on­cile if you think of your­self as an out­sider. “I am born a rebel,” he says in his heav­ily ac­cented English. “I am still a rebel. And Diesel is still revo­lu­tion­ary.”

Rosso sports the curly mop of an ’80s pop star, and his uni­form of jeans, sneak­ers and sil­ver jew­ellery (all Diesel), and his two tat­tooed fin­gers all bur­nish his “I’m not a mogul” idea of him­self. The man re­spon­si­ble for 4000 em­ploy­ees sums up his busi­ness phi­los­o­phy as cre­ativ­ity first, prof­its sec­ond. It’s talk that would give your Gucci Group man­ager a heart at­tack. “I never think how to be big­ger,” he ex­plains, “but how to be dif­fer­ent, spe­cial, fresh, mod­ern and cool. I’m not a pub­lic com­pany and I don’t need to play the num­bers, so I can work from pas­sion to cre­ate some­thing dif­fer­ent. I pre­fer to con­cen­trate on the beau­ti­ful things.” Pa­per mag­a­zine’s Kim Has­tre­iter adds, “Renzo Rosso re­ally does work from his gut. I don’t think he thinks about things like strat­egy. He’s re­ally in­tu­itive. Diesel is gi­gan­tic, but it’s a gi­gan­tic mama/papa com­pany.”

We meet dur­ing Fash­ion Week in New York, where Diesel now stages a ready-to-wear run­way show, part of the com­pany’s move to re­po­si­tion

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