Stefano Rosso doesn’t look like your typical executive. Rocking a scruffy beard, a crewneck sweatshirt, and an all black fitted New York Yankees hat, the newly appointed CEO of Diesel North America could easily pass for a DJ or street artist. His comfortably casual appearance likely comes from having grown up inside the company his father, fashion power player Renzo Rosso, launched in 1978. Now, amidst a shifting retail landscape, Rosso the younger is putting the Italian family business back on top on this side of the Atlantic.
What are your goals for the brand?
I want Diesel to go back to being one of the most relevant fashion lifestyle brands in the region with a healthy business because you can be very relevant and cool and lose tons on money. We need to go back and focus on the needs of the consumers, and then focus on our core strengths and in particular I think denim. Focus on distribution, become smaller, having a smaller more manageable retail network, having fewer partners that you can really work with that embrace the brand and values of the company and want to drive a new position of the brand. I feel the only way to go now is become smaller but more relevant. It’s better to be smaller but to mean something to customers than to be this giant without a soul.
What do you want Diesel to mean to customers?
You know, if we think about what we used to mean, we represented a dream through our clothing, our voice, and our marketing campaigns. We were really trying to tell people how they can live a better life, enjoy life with a positive attitude, and try to challenge conformity. That is exactly where I would like to bring the brand back. The way to do it is different than what it used to be because once you just needed a good product, a great marketing campaign, and more or less you were done. Nowadays the attention span of the consumer is much shorter, so you need to be constantly flooding them with interesting stuff. It’s not one campaign; it’s a series of activities, collaborations, and events. It has to be a constant flow.
How will focusing on Diesel’s denim collection boost the brand?
Well, I always give this as an example: we invented a new category of jeans, it’s called jog jeans and it’s basically what people call joggers. We were the one that invented this category six years ago, but don’t ask me why we were a bit shy about it. We didn’t really push this message as hard as we should have, especially at the beginning and everybody else copied us, so it’s where I would like us to be more intense and strong about it and make people really understand what is behind our denim. I know for certain that if I put our jeans on top of a table with any other competitor’s jeans, mine are somehow better from the fit, the quality of the materials, the treatments we do, the quality of trims, every item has a different button and a different finishing. So why should we not be as proud about it and talk about it?
Even if a product is beautiful, people want to be proud to wear a brand. How are you going to build Diesel’s brand equity?
It’s definitely about generating that emotional attachment and unfortunately today it can’t be driven just by a good marketing campaign or a good message. It’s not enough. Brands need to become more dynamic because as a matter of fact people trust people more than brands, so a brand has to think and be dynamic and touchable almost like if they were a person. I think that is the success of some of the brands that are really at the top today and that’s exactly where I will enter with Diesel.