Mr. Diesel invents the future

“The best way to anticipate the future is to invent it” is one of Renzo Rosso’s mottos, known worldwide as “Mr. Diesel”, “Genius Jeans”, “Denim God”, “casual clothing exclusive King” and under of dozens of other names. He started from scratch and created an empire of more than 2 billion euros  with those qualities that make up a leader: work, vision, overcoming the limitations and, above all, value recognition. Because in the end, how much money can you make creating and selling jeans?

Renzo Rosso is not a designer. Renzo Rosso is a businessman, a marketing genius, a money-making machine in the most relaxed and enjoyable way. And he is completely different from all those who inhabit the world of fashion and from the classic successful entrepreneurs. After 36 years from the establishment of the company that has created a revolution of denim and with a wealth that exceeds by far the accounts – if we consider what generated all “Diesel power”, Renzo Rosso has a house, six children and many pair of jeans. And has a private jet that can take him anywhere on the planet he wishes to be. Born in 1955 in a family of Italian farmers, the young Renzo dreamed as many other children to do it better than his parents, to do something different, and following the Latin style, something to make him happy. At least as happy as the moment he produced his first pair of low waist jeans with his mother’s Singer sewing machine. He was only 15 years old. He liked the jeans he had but wanted some jeans that would differentiate him from the crowd – and in the ’60s he found people willing to experiment.

His friends got his first creations for free and the schoolmates had to pay for them: the equivalent of 1.80 euros at the current rate. In 1973 he began to study economics at the University of Venice and had to work as a mechanic and carpenter support himself. He dropped out in ’75 and started working as a production manager at Moltex, a local manufacturer which made trousers for various Italian brands.

In its first two years of operation, the company had grown extremely rapidly. Rosso’s sales skills, hard work and the visionary business strategies made Genius Corp owners Moltex the parent company, to make him a shareholder at Genius which then encompassed brands like Replay Jeans King Viva. A clear example of how effectively Rosso’s business vision was, choosing the Diesel name.

Diesel – which has the same name worldwide – is the alternative fuel to petrol which came out in the oil crisis, so the jeans Diesel is an alternative to established, slightly boring, jeans brands. Moreover, since the name is pronounced the same and means the same thing in all languages Rosso’s vision was that his brand will destroy the barriers and will be validated by the people’s lifestyle, not their nationality. In 2004, after Diesel’s activity reached 20 years, CNN accredited Rosso’s company as the first brand to truly believe in “global village” and permanently supported it.

Another example of openness to new ideas and Rosso’s innovative inner qualities is that Diesel was the first world major brand with a website, launched in 1995 which was followed after only two years by the first shop owned by a fashion brand.

Rosso has expanded the business getting involved in all aspects of it: from design and sales to advertising, from social campaigns to supporting young talents. His creativity and vision are leaving their marks on the brand’s TV commercials or billboards.

Many of Diesel ads, some of them awarded at film festivals, including the Cannes Lions Festival are Rosso’s ideas. He associated the company’s name with actions and people who have overcome barriers; from sports which first were perceived as extreme like snowboarding, to graffiti artists who have become trends once “touched” by Rosso.

Even his simple ideas became successful businesses. And most of them came out accidentally or for fun. He wanted to buy a farm for his parents and he started producing on the property oil and wine of the highest quality. He very much liked an Art Deco building built in ’39 in Miami, quite run down but he bought it and turned it into one of the most beautiful “fashion hotels” in the world.

He loved football and because of that purchased his hometown team, Bassano Virtus, which he finances and also gets involved in their management.

Everything that Rosso touched, turned into gold. And the thing is that he did it for fun, even if he always worked hard. But perhaps the most important quality of the Italian from Diesel was the style of his management, the relationship with his employees.

Buying the shares from his partner in 1985, Rosso built an international team of designers with the same vision. Once the company has established itself globally Rosso always said – and made it as public as possible – that the success of the brand is due to the extensive work of his employees.

When Diesel received the “The Advertiser of the Year” at Cannes in 1998, Rosso wanted to make a joke and climbed on stage with his entire creative team, all dressed the same and wearing identical wigs with Rosso’s curly hair.

Before accepting the prize, the “King of jeans” presented each member of his team and explained that the award belongs to his team as well.

Renzo Rosso in figures:

He has a very active Facebook page with nearly 45,000 likes on which he always posts personal things like the fact that he loves the new Pope, or that his football team has won;

He opened 400 Diesel stores worldwide, has sold over 100 million pairs of jeans from 1978 until now and owns 10 original Andy Warhol paintings;

He has in his closet over 200 pairs of jeans, 350 shirts and 200 casual sport jackets;

He has five tattoos, over 6,500 employees and donated 5 million euros for restoring the Rialto bridge in Venice;

The turnover of his OTB (Only the Brave) group was about 1,4 billion euros in 2012.