renzo rosso on diesel’s new dawn, martin margiela’s advice to john galliano and kanye west’s fashion shows

Atop a fashion empire that includes Diesel, Maison Margiela and Marni, Renzo Rosso is undoubtedly one of the most powerful men in the fashion industry. As Diesel launches their innovative new campaign, entitled “Go with the Flaw”, we meet the mogul.

by Ryan White; photos by Tom Sloan
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12 September 2017, 2:43pm

Diesel, the Italian denim brand-turned-lifestyle empire has always been at the vanguard of fashion innovation. It was the first major label to truly embrace the internet -- in 1997 it became the first fashion brand to set up an online store. Reinvention has always been integral to its identity, as well as its continued commercial success.

This season, following on from its celebrated "Make Love Not Walls" campaign shot by David LaChapelle, for autumn/winter 17 Diesel is celebrating the faults that make us unique, encouraging us to "Go with the Flaw," not the flow. Deleting every Instagram post and starting again from scratch, dropping a campaign film directed by award-winning director François Rousselet, and collaborating with Chinese popstar sensation Chris Lee on a special capsule collection, the brand, under the direction of Creative Director Nicola Formichetti, is certainly having a moment right now. We caught up with Diesel's founder, Renzo Rosso, to discuss the inspirations behind the collection, and pick the brains of a man at the helm of a fashion empire.

Talk us through the new campaign and your collaboration with Chris Lee.
The world, in particular the fashion world, is living more and more through idols. Idols are the people the consumer follow -- they follow what they're doing, which bars and restaurants they're going to, what they wear. Real advertising is less and less and less, and the new advertising is coming through idols; this is where the new generation is taking inspiration. Chris Lee is the perfect face for this -- very androgynous -- perfect for what is happening in the fashion industry right now.

Diesel has always innovated -- being such a digital-conscious fashion brand so early on. What do you think the next big innovation in fashion is?
It's a particular moment now, where new designers are changing a lot and putting a modernity in the way we see fashion. Vetements, Balenciaga, J.W.Anderson, Anthony Vaccarello for Saint Laurent, and Nicola, too, for Diesel. This new generation of creative people, they design with a touch of modernity, new silhouettes, a touch of wearability. It's also a moment for the 90s, for logos -- like at Gucci. There is a lot of change at the moment.

For us, we are so proud of the collection. Today [the launch day] is like day zero for us. Last night, we deleted all our Instagram posts. From today, we are looking for a new way to communicate. After all, social media is about 80% of our communication. Everything you're doing, even if you're not doing something special, is posted on social media. So, now it's impossible to live without it.

I think Diesel is on the way to becoming something spectacular, it's a really magical moment for us right now. The last few years we've spent time reorganising the company. I'm working close with Nicola and the team. I never design, I give them the power to take brave decisions. And next year, Diesel celebrates its 40th anniversary!

Has the brand turned out like you envisaged it?
My dream was to become a jeans company, I thought -- I can die the day we do 50 million [the brand is now worth over one billion pounds]. Then we started doing more than just jeans, we started to everything. Shoes, bags, jewellery, shades, furniture -- it's a real lifestyle company.

What compelled you to start Black Gold, Diesel's premium line?
I wanted to create little things that are beautiful, and a bit higher. This was the idea behind Black Gold. I think it's very epic. It's easy when you are on the top and you do a second line, but when you do a commercial line, and want to create a more exclusive version, it's difficult. We had to eat a lot of shit on the way.

I chose New York to show originally, because it was the only fashion week where you could show a unisex collection [Black Gold now shows in Milan]. I am very happy menswear and womenswear is being moved together more now, because it's much more modern.

What do you think of the fashion week schedule in general? Do you think it needs an overhaul?
It depends who you are. For a brand like Margiela, you can never change it. When you are doing high fashion, these special dresses where you need a lot of time to create the fabrics. You just cannot do see now, buy now.

How do you think it compares starting a label now to four decades ago?
I think fashion has never paid more attention to young designers than now. Before, it was difficult. Now, you can have visibility worldwide. The industry is really looking a lot more at the young designers, the fresh blood. A lot of new, up-and-coming designers are so young. Jonathan Anderson, Anthony Vaccarello, Demna Gvasalia, even Nicola!

What do you find exciting in fashion at the moment?
I like the influence of Los Angeles in fashion right now -- this new upgraded casual. Virgil Abloh at Off-White, Yeezy, Mike Amiri. This LA mentality, where they upgrade the casual to become contemporary and luxury. A democratic modernity. Like Kanye West's show at Madison Square Gardens -- inviting so many people. People even paid for tickets to be there. It can be entertainment and celebrities, but it can also be directly for the consumers.

Of course, not all fashion can be like this. For example, a brand like Margiela, one of the best couturier designers, with John Galliano on board -- you cannot go in this direction. Of course, we also have to use social media with Margiela, but this kind of fashion stays very exclusive.

What's it like owning Margiela, such an important and storied fashion house?
I found the first two years difficult, with John. John had just come out of a very bad moment. But after working together, he started to realise the DNA of Margiela. Also, he met Martin. Martin told him "John, don't follow what we have done, but do your own Margiela. Just keep the Margiela touch, but with the John view." He took out part of the jacket, the trouser, to see what was behind. This become an incredible moment. It was important [to do something new] because many brands now copy the old Margiela.

Finally, in the spirit of your new campaign, what is your biggest flaw?
I am a Virgo, and Virgos look for perfection. I think I need to follow this campaign and accept that showing mistakes is ok!