Interview with Renzo Rosso, owner of Diesel
One of the bigger talking points in a relatively quiet Salone del Mobile was the launch of Diesel Homeware. The 30-strong collection of furniture and lighting was unveiled at the Diesel Penthouse on via Stendhal, announced to all who wandered along the street that connects vias Tortona and Savona like a blockbuster movie – Diesel Homeware starring special guests Moroso and Foscarini.
The inclusion of the ‘special guests’ was what piqued so much intrigue prior to the collection’s unveiling. In launching their premier home collection Diesel chose to collaborate with two Italian giants of the design industry – Moroso for furniture and Foscarini for lighting - a safe bet that the collaborative venture would produce, if nothing else, furniture and lighting of supreme quality that design enthusiasts and critics would find very hard to snub.
But the design crowd is perhaps a less fickle one than the fashion folk that Diesel are more familiar with. Less easily wowed or won over by bright lights, big names and numerous press releases we’re more keen to work out whether these additions to a very saturated market are beautiful, functional, well made and perhaps more importantly (and this more now than ever) whether they are necessary.
It was difficult to imagine how Diesel, so famed for its denim and deconstructed aesthetic, might translate into chairs and lighting. Sceptics prior to the launch spoke of denim and zips in abundance but we’re relieved to say there wasn’t a zip in sight. Instead there was quite a rugged, industrial feel to much of the lighting and an attractive washed linen upholstery on the furniture. The Glas and Cage lights particularly we can imagine making space for in our homes, while the Cumulus lounge chair was one of the most comfortable we sat on throughout the Salone.
Though the collection on first sight silenced a good deal of the critics we wanted to hear a bit more from the people at the top – principally why it was launched now and who it was launched for – and so we sat down on the vast Cloud 9 sofa for a few minutes with Diesel’s owner Renzo Rosso, the Creative Director of the homeware range Wilbert Das, Patrizia Moroso, Art Director of her namesake company, Carlo Urbinati, President of Foscarini and Filippo Zucchi, Licensing Manager of the Zucchi group who collaborate with Diesel on the fabrics used in their homeware.
W*: Why have you chosen to launch a homeware line now?
Renzo Rosso: Last year we launched a fabric line in collaboration with Zucchi, which was a natural route for a fashion brand to enter the homeware market. We intended to follow this with a range of furniture and lighting to allow our customers to create a total lifestyle environment based around Diesel’s brand.
W*: What ‘lifestyle’ does the Diesel brand promote?
RR: In two words ‘successful living’ (this is Diesel’s tagline). We appeal to an intelligent consumer who shows their character not just through their clothes but more and more through their home too. We don’t tell people they have to only wear Diesel clothes or live with Diesel homeware, it’s about giving them a choice of original designs that aren’t just luxury but are very good quality that they can pick and choose from.
W*: Were you concerned that now might not be the best time to extend the brand into homeware?
RR: This is a collaboration that’s been in the pipeline for a long time before the economic crisis took hold.
Patrizia Moroso: I think it’s the perfect time actually. It’s not in any of our natures to change direction because there are financial difficulties when we’ve done so much research, planning and development.
W*: But surely the crisis affects how much the consumer might be willing to spend – and your homeware collection involves more of an investment spend than your fashion consumers might be used to?
RR: We’ve been careful to make sure there’s a big range from entry price of say a table lamp to the ‘super price’ of the sofa we’re sitting on for example.
W*: Do you really feel the same people who buy Diesel jeans will buy a Diesel sofa too?
RR: People approach lifestyle in a very different way now. Consumers fall in love with a brand and it’s important for a brand to develop and stretch itself to provide for their consumers. I don’t suspect that a customer will walk into a store to buy a pair of jeans and end up buying a sofa, but like I said before it’s about providing our loyal consumers with a choice to create a lifestyle.
W*: How did you settle on Moroso and Foscarini as partners in the collaboration?
RR: We did a lot of research into potential collaborators. What was most important for us was experience and quality. Moroso and Foscarini are leaders in their field so making this decision was not difficult.
W*: What do you think was in it for them?
RR: It’s a unique project to work with a young, fresh brand used to dealing with the fast turnaround of the fashion world. As such it was an opportunity for them to see a different approach to design and production through which we could combine our different experience and learn from each other.
Carlo Urbinati: We’ve been approached in the past to merely produce work which another brand would just stick their label on. We never liked the idea of working in this way but the idea of working in collaboration of a brand like Diesel was very different.
RR: And our intention with the project was never to just stick our label on products that had been designed and produced by another company. We wanted to start from scratch and work in collaboration throughout the process.
PM: We liked the idea that we could work together to do something in a different way. And for us particularly we were curious to see what we could learn from working with a fashion brand.
W*: What have you learnt then?
PM: As Renzo said we pooled the experience we each have from our own work in planning and production from design and fashion to create something different.
W*: Who actually designed the collection?
Wilbert Das; We have an internal team of 3 people at Diesel who before this project worked in the graphics and interior architecture departments. It made a nice change from the fast pace of fashion design for us and an interesting project to work in collaboration with the designers at Moroso and Foscarini.
RR: 3 people might have been dedicated to the designing but the mentality of the whole Diesel design studio makes the number up to about 100 people. Everyone had a hand to extend the Diesel ethos into furniture and lighting. This is how we made sure that the homeware is in synch with our fashion too.
W*: Where will it be sold?
RR: In our stores. The smaller items like the lights people can walk out of the shop with. The bigger furniture pieces will be delivered to order.
PM: It will be sold in our stores.
CU: And in our stores. Going back to your question about our collection launching in a time of crisis I wanted to quote John F. Kennedy who said that crisis in Chinese is made up of two words that mean danger and opportunity. He said he’d leave the danger and take the opportunity, which I think sums up neatly how we all feel aout the project.
Click here to return to our Salone 2009 homepage