By Maddalena Padovani

The road connecting Vicenza to Breganze crosses typical Po Valley countryside: expanses of cultivated fields, vineyards, orchards, alternating with more or less anonymous groups of houses and industrial sheds, bearing concrete witness to the work ethic of the northeastern part of Italy.

At the last minute, we realize we’ve arrived at the Diesel headquarters: an overall area of 98,000 square meters, 50,000 of them occupied by constructions, which the president and founder of the company Renzo Rosso decided to construct below street level, for the most discreet impact on the landscape. After all, an entrepreneur who has always made innovation and creativity his earmarks couldn’t be expected to make a conventional choice: more than a building, this place that was opened in 2011 is a veritable village, with offices for a thousand workers, but also services available to employees, daycare centers, schools, a soccer field, a gym, bar, restaurant and auditorium. The facility has been built in keeping with the most sophisticated criteria of ecocompatibility and makes use of alternative energy sources like solar and geothermal. Inside, about 50 creative talents from all over the world give form to the world of Diesel, which is made of jeans and garments, but also of graphic design, advertising, events and performances, furnishings, stores, displays, websites. A galaxy that combines directly controlled brands with those under license, ranging from fragrances (L’Oreal) to watches and jewelry (Fossil), eyewear (Marcolin) to helmets (AGV/Dainese) to baby strollers (Bugaboo). All the way to the home collection, begun in 2008 in partnership with Zucchi, as a natural extension of the company’s expertise in the field of textiles, and then immediately guided into other areas of home design: furniture with Moroso, lighting with Foscarini, kitchens with Scavolini, complements with Seletti. Andrea Rosso, Renzo’s first child, as creative director of Diesel licenses in charge of all the lifestyle aspects of the family brand, talks about this increasingly important and substantial project, which this year, for the first time, was independently presented at the Salone del Mobile in Milan. In 1998 Interni published an interview with Renzo Rosso, about the world of Diesel and the idea of getting into the market of items for the home. Could you tell us how you have entered that sector, with what aims, and with what kind of a creative project? The desire to interpret empty spaces, giving them form and warmth, has always been part of the Diesel attitude. Every time we were creating a new store, we would fill it up with vintage furniture and salvaged things, the result of the research my father has always conducted with passion, and with the aim of controlling even the smallest details. At a certain point we asked ourselves: why don’t we also get into textiles for the home? And then: why don’t we also create our own chairs, our own lamps? So for us it was a natural step to get into the world of furnishings… Which pieces did you present at the Salone del Mobile? Counting the collection produced by Seletti, the latest development, there were more than eighty pieces. What are the criteria behind the choice of your partners? The basis of the partnerships with Moroso, Foscarini, Zucchi, Scavolini and Seletti is obviously a matter of shared values regarding products, namely quality, energy, the desire to tell stories through the things we do. Each partner has a different, specific approach: Moroso, for example, has an artisan’s vision of the process and finishing of the product, which is different from the focus on industrialization of a company like Foscarini. What these companies share with us is a passion for material, which for us is very important. How do your designs for the home get started? All the products are designed inside our company. The creative team for the Diesel Living collection is composed of four people, joined by those who work on the technical side, the actual production. We all work together with the in-house style division, which also covers graphics, clothing, accessories. We get lots of inspiration from these other worlds; the finishes of the fashion fabrics, for example, often end up in experiments for the home. How does the creative process unfold? The first briefing defines the strategies in terms of market, target and distribution. Once we’ve got our feet on the ground, we move on to mood boards, granting full liberty for creativity. Only later, through a series of steps, does the project take on a form that is comprehensible in commercial and product terms, leading to prototyping and cost assessment. Experimentation is very important for us. We like to try to take innovative paths, which might not lead to concrete results, but provide lots of stimuli. Where do you get your inspiration? Our inspirations come from the world of music, art, the street. From these ‘other’ worlds, which include that of industrial design, we get elements on which to insert the Diesel lifestyle. Our product is always ‘lived in’: it is never flat, full, perfect, finished, it seems like it has existed for a while, bearing the signs of a history that began some time ago. We like to fantasize and to imagine that even a stool can narrate something that goes beyond its function or its mere form. In this process my father has always played an important role: he is the one, in the end, who decides everything, very quickly, adding details that can make all the difference. What will be the upcoming interpretations of the Diesel style in the domestic environment? We are talking with other possible partners to develop other product types, which at the moment are top secret. What did it mean for Diesel Living to exhibit this year, for the first time, in a booth of its own at the Salone del Mobile? It was a very positive experience that permitted us to present the philosophy that lies behind the collection. The setting itself was joined by a sort of gallery where the products were shown in a descriptive way. We used all the narrative features of the world of Diesel: graphics, material, lifestyle. It is important to make spaces come alive, with emotional impact. How have you furnished your own home? I live in Bassano del Grappa, in a small apartment with a fine view of the Brenta River, which I have furnished with objects found at vintage markets, when I lived in the United States. First in Los Angeles, where I moved when I was 18, to learn English, and then in New York, where I studied Textile Development and Marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology. My house is very colorful, full of paintings and personal objects. I did it with the help of an interior designer, but I made certain choices myself, like that of the facings in the bath, which I invented like a story of color, combining tile samples sent to me by a company in the area. Before working on Diesel license products, for 15 years you work on clothing, in charge of the brand 55DSL. What was it like switching from fashion to design? They are two different worlds with different languages, but the creative approach is always the same. The passage is allowing me to get to know about materials, which previously just meant fabrics, for me. I find design very intriguing, though I think that with respect to fashion it is very egocentric. In the world of Diesel there are no signatures: what the creative people design belongs to the lifestyle of the brand, beyond individualism. Nevertheless, I am always amazed by the versatility of the knowledge of designers who work on furniture, their technical knowledge. Our partners stimulate us and urge experimentation with products, things they might not be able to offer with their own brands. Is there one product that best expresses the spirit of the Diesel Living collection? If my father were here he would definitely say the kitchen, the table in brushed metal that seems to have been around for some time, with its riveted borders that reveal the mechanical nature of the product and give it an industrial flavor, or the vintage embroideries seen in the hood and the reinforced glass doors. Tell us about your personal vision of design and architecture. Is there one designer you particularly admire? Generally I like the Seventies, the world of automotive design, the cars of Bertone, the futuristic sign that is wed with the material. I also admire the work of Carlo Scarpa very much.