Andrea Rosso: innovation, creative clash and a keen eye for detail. The secrets behind Diesel’s success

Andrea Rosso is Creative Director for all Diesel’s licenses, that is all the fields in which the brand has decided to expand over the years: eyewear with Marcolin, bicycles with Pinarello, home furniture with Moroso and Foscarini, jewelry with Fossil, bike helmets with AGV/Dainese, headsets with Monster and much more. Rosso decided at a very young age to work for the family company, founded by his father Renzo when he was just four years old. He went to school in California and New York, where he studied Textile Development & Marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
Today, he leads the creative team in the development of new products and directly oversees the international communication and visual identity of all Diesel licenses. His passion for vintage and military clothing has also motivated him to start a personal project: MYAR, a menswear brand inspired by army style, with pieces made with fabric stock he finds around the world. For the 2017/18 season, Rosso has collaborated with designer Teppei Sugaya: an Italian and Japanese culture clash that has given rise to the “BAS-ITO” collection, named after its two “birthplaces”, Bassano and Mito. Here is what he told us when we had the chance to meet.

This season’s advertisement campaign for Diesel apparel claims “Go with the flaw – Perfection is boring”, and encourages viewers to transform their limits into something extraordinary. How did this concept take shape?
The initial idea was by the marketing department and Nicola (Formichetti, Diesel’s Creative Director for apparel). It’s a very important message, that almost forbids us from stopping at the obstacles life puts on our road. The secret is to always keep going, no matter what. It’s a great lesson that is embedded in Diesel’s DNA and in the way the company communicates.

Have you ever transformed a limit into success, in your professional or personal life?
I am generally very precise and give huge importance to details: the little things that seem irrelevant in the beginning but then turn out to be crucial. This approach translates into a huge time investment, but one that finally pays off.  It was probably the secret behind many products’ success.

“Taking risks” seems to be a running theme in your life. Can you tell us about it?
Risks often come up at work too, for example when making a decision might jeopardize sales. But personally I believe that in general, when in doubt the answer should be “yes”: it’s time to dare. For example, I do a lot of research about materials and colors. When we launched “Denimeye” eyewear, with frames made in soft fabrics like jeans, clients felt uneasy about using that kind of material for a product that goes on your face. But then it was a great success, and other brands started emulating us, proving that sometimes daring to do something different is the winning move.

What projects do you have underway at the moment?
We just launched our new smartwatch, “Diesel On Full Guard”, for which we designed a new graphic interface. It uses Android Wear 2.0™, compatible with iPhone® and Android™, and can connect via Bluetooth technology. We also created the new off-field uniforms for AC Milan, turning the icon of the flame of the “rossonero” devil into a camouflage pattern: CAMO-FIRE. We used it on an urban-style bomber jacket as well as on more formal blazers.

Can you tell us more about the creative process behind your collections?
Research is crucial. We were recently in Mexico for some in-depth analysis for the home sector. The country is very interesting in terms of materials and colors, and I’m sure we will use a lot of the inspiration we got there for our interior decor products. For eyewear and watches, we are developing a new material with specific transparency features – something we are investing in a lot. I have to say that sometimes you get the right idea just by going to a vintage market or observing new things, furniture, food, fabric or trinkets when you are out and about. I am fascinated by the process that goes from observing what we have around us to transforming it into something real: it’s always a great challenge. Of course we do briefings before the research phase, and receive feedback from the market, which helps us avoid mistakes.

Who do you work with mainly, within the company, in this phase?
I always share any inspiration with Nicola Formichetti, and he tells me what he thinks. But then a very important, crucial part of the process beings, in which the team working on products comes into play. They take an input and transform it into something with a shape and size. We are always in close contact to define what the final object will be. At Diesel we all work together, and in the office you’ll see graphics, textiles and colors or meet colleagues with something interesting to say, even if you are just walking to the printer. Sometimes collaborating cross-sector and exchanging ideas is the secret to achieving good results. Perhaps the person working on knits has an insight we can use in furniture, or a fashion designer is designing a leather jacket but comes up with a detail that would be prefect for a leather couch’s trim. We take inspiration anywhere we can. This information clash is so interesting: it’s the heart and the strength of the company, because Diesel loves research and experimentation and that is how the best ideas are born.

Can you tell us one trend your licenses will focus on in the next few months?
In our work, sometimes we find a new material that seems interesting. This generally invades all of our sectors a little, spanning from furniture to eyewear and so on. So in the next period we will definitely try to understand how we can channel the material I mentioned before in the different license sectors. Fashion is something else, and we talk about color codes instead: personally, I think we’ll still see a lot of sharp contrasts and strong hues.

What has been Diesel’s secret to success over all these years?
When I was quite little, I think about five years old, denim, workwear and jeans were the company’s focus; they became Diesel’s DNA in a way. At the same time, over the years the brand was able to merge that with a wide variety of looks, materials and designs with an international feel to them. This mix and clash had a huge market success in the 1990s. Now, we’ve added a rock component and some military inspiration that have become part of Diesel’s heritage too. I think our success comes from our ability to always interpret well this clash and union of moods and inspirations.

Diesel has innovated so much and overcome many taboos. What “wall” would you like your communication to pull down in the future?
The great thing about communication is that it has huge margins for expression and growth. If a concept is right, it’s only fair to express it to its full potential. Therefore I’m sure we’ll follow up on this year’s apparel advertisement campaign, also for continuity. Perhaps, from my personal point of view – that of an almost forty-year-old person who’s lived in both the analog and the digital world – I would like to focus on analyzing what today’s younger generations didn’t have the chance to live in person. They’ve never walked into a record store, for example. The richness and depth of content we used to find there was so much more important than looks, while today everything is definitely more superficial – something many struggle to understand. It would be interesting to convey the thrill we used to feel back then.

Speaking of younger generations: what do you look for in new talents who want to work for you?
It depends. Sometimes I simply ask what music they listen to, and that tells me whether they are right for the job or not. Once the résumé fits all the requirements, it’s extremely important to evaluate personality and attitude because this is someone you will spend a lot of time with. And sometimes you can work better and harder if you listen to the same song.

What is your personality, outside work? What do you like and what do you feel passionate about?
I love nature and green spaces in general. I love traveling – seeing, hearing and absorbing anything. I’m a fan of technology and am drawn to an idea of future that is inspired and originated by the past, a bit like in “Blade Runner”. I’ve always loved graphics and anything that is vintage or has “flavor”.

What is the most important lesson your father has taught you?
He never quits and is not someone who delegates. His primary goal has always been to improve, experiment and innovate. This attitude has always motivated us all very much, pushing us to do always better. He taught me to look ahead and be dynamic, also (and most importantly) in the way I think.

Tell us about MYAR. How did this parallel project start?
I’ve always had a passion for the military world and cargo pants. I was born in 1977, and lived the 1990s in oversize clothes: I wore baggier styles than today and was a skater. I love the world of textiles and fashion design: when I wear something I like to understand its fit and consider its functionality – a paramount factor in military clothing. The army always uses warm and very sturdy fabrics, which Diesel’s apparel has always been partial to. With my career being in licenses, I missed the world of apparel and textiles a little: MYAR was a natural outlet for my interests. The name is an anagram of the word “army” and includes my initials. That is how it started.

How do you see yourself in a few years from now, in your career?
I’ll soon turn forty. I’ve always wanted to draw well, and one day I’ll be able to. In my life I’ve seen so many things around the world, and I know that the more I see, the more I will want to put them down on paper. I’m curious to find out what will come of it.

Interview by Barbara Palladino

© Diesel

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