Jeans Genie

Stefano Rosso

He truly is blue blood denim royalty. The son of Diesel founder, Renzo Rosso, Stefano cut his teeth studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York where he completed a BA in International Trade and Marketing. Stefano first began working outside the family company, collaborating with brands like Zoo York. After returning to Italy in 2005, he became Diesel’s 5 Pockets Denim Brand Manager, and subsequently Strategic Brand Alliances Director creating and managing some of the brand’s most important global collaborations. Projects include a limited edition jeans and sneakers collection with Adidas Originals and a worldwide partnership with Ducati.

In 2011 Rosso became CEO of Only The Brave, the parent company of the fashion brands Diesel, Maison Margiela, Marni, Viktor & Rolf, as well as Staff International which specializes in ready-to-wear production and distribution through license agreements with DSquared2, Just Cavalli, Vivienne Westwood Red Label and Man, and Marc Jacobs Men. Rosso’s portfolio also includes Brave Kid specializing in children’s wear production and distribution for licensed brands Diesel, DSquared2, Marni and John Galliano

SOMA Magazine sat down with Stefano Rosso to talk about the rapid evolution of the fashion business, the current US political climate, Diesel’s iconic advertising campaigns and his dad’s iconic haircut.

First, Stefano – congratulations. After six years heading up the corporate development of OTB you have become the North American CEO for Diesel. What’s your vision for Diesel in America? More stores? Broader distribution?

My fundamental vision for our brand is to focus! We need to have a more qualitative approach and a less quantitative approach. The job I am tasked with is to make the brand relevant again and not bigger.

You were born on 1st June, 1979 and fourteen days later, Unknown Pleasures, the debut studio album by Joy Division was released. The world has changed a lot since then. Joy Division changed the course of music and Diesel changed the world of denim. In your view, what have been the other positive changes?

Well, Diesel in the last 40 years has changed the advertising world. We were the first brand to talk to its consumers instead of just trying to sell them a pair of jeans. Then in the more recent years we invented joggjeans, a category that gives you the look of denim but with the comfort of a jogging pant. And there is more to come!

What were the three most important things you learned during your studies at Fashion Institute of Technology in New York?

America is different than Europe, the culture, the mindset, everything is different. If I must pick 3 I would say:

1. Anything is possible and it’s only up to you to make it happen

2. There is no time to lose

3. Cultural differences help create rich experiences

You said of America “This part of the world, so iconic and inspirational to our denim core business, will play a key role in the global plan of rebooting Diesel.” Given the nasty political climate in the USA, what can Diesel teach Donald Trump?

We can only give people our point of view on relevant matters, but with a positive attitude. That’s how we addressed important issues like global warming, social inequalities, etc. in our past campaigns. So, I guess we could suggest to take life seriously but with a smile on the face.

What did you bring back to Diesel from your work experience outside the company, collaborating with brands like Zoo York, for example?

I lived through the street culture movement that is currently influencing all the major fashion brands. I plan on taking that lifestyle with me and implementing it for the future of diesel north america.

What’s the most important piece of advice you could give to today’s emerging fashion design students?

Don’t try too hard and don’t copy others, be true to yourself. True innovation should come from within and you should feel good about it. If you would wear it then most likely everybody else will!

The fashion industry is undergoing a seismic shift right now. Where would you like to see it in the next decade?

It’s difficult to say, we are under a structural change, I have a feeling the current system is about to die and fashion companies haven’t realized it yet. I only wish companies will start to understand that it is more important to talk to the consumers than to the system.

Describe the future of denim. Will it incorporate 3D printing? Growing denim in a lab?

Not sure about 3d printing for denim textiles, for sure in accessories but the hang and feel of real denim is difficult to replicate. My feeling is that we will still see some development in the performance and comfort of textiles.

Describe the best night of your life, so far.

There were so many!! I believe the best one was the night my daughter was born. The mix of feelings of that night are impossible to replicate and will stay with me forever.

Finally, can you convince your dad to get a better hair cut?

Why? Icons can’t change too much! Would you ask Keith Richards to wear a suit?

Well maybe a denim suit….

Text by Keanan Duffy