Interview: Renzo Rosso .. on football, fashion and finding the route to success

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The 23rd of December 2016 will always be a day to remember for Italian fashion industry legend Renzo Rosso.

The long-time supporter of AC Milan did not only witness his beloved team ending a five-year trophy drought by beating Juventus in Doha to win the Italian Super Cup, but he also celebrated a very special moment, as the Italian giants made their first official appearance in the new off-field uniforms designed by Diesel, the leading fashion brand he founded in 1978.

All I want for Christmas is you! Tonite is the night #weareacmilan #diesel @acmilan

A photo posted by Renzo Rosso (@renzorosso) on

Rosso’s journey from his family’s small farm in Brugine – a village in the Veneto region, north east of Italy – to the top of the fashion world is nothing but inspiring. His passion for the world of garments and fashion started at a very young age. He was only 15 when he made his first pair of jeans using his mother’s sewing machine, before studying design and industrial textile production at the Maroni Technical Institute in the nearby city of Padua, graduating in 1975.

Rosso then found a job at Moltex, a factory in the town of Molvena, also in the Veneto region.

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Moltex sales boomed and in less than three years Rosso became a partner in the company and founded “Diesel”, a brand that took the Jeans industry by storm and in a very short time became one of the most successful clothing lines in the world.

The 61-year-old self-made billionaire is now heading Only The Brave (OTB) – a fashion empire that besides Diesel, owns other luxury brands like Maison Margiela, Marni and Viktor & Rolf.

When Rosso started Diesel he focused on creating something different and innovative, something of unprecedented quality, and he used creative and, most of the times, controversial advertising approaches to sell his products, neglecting most traditional marketing rules, and it really worked very well.

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Now the Italian visionary is hoping to disrupt the world of traditional sport uniforms, and he describes the new AC Milan uniform as “a style revolution in the world of global football”.

The first outcome of the three-year style partnership between AC Milan and Diesel was unveiled in Doha, and it is completely different from the usual formal suits most of the big teams in Europe wear during their off-field appearances and travels.

The first off-field uniform for the players and staff might look formal at first glance, but with a closer look you will notice that it is a black hooded blazer with stretch fleece sleeves and zips at the wrists, while the black pants are the iconic Diesel Jogg-Jeans, designed for people with active lifestyles.

A travel uniform was unveiled too; it includes a colorful satin bomber jacket, with numerous badges that tells the story of Diesel and AC Milan, including flags, numbers, the initials of Herbert Kiplin – the English man who founded AC Milan – in addition to his iconic quote “Red as Fire” and Renzo Rosso’s signature with his famous motto “Enjoy”.

Football Qatar met with Renzo Rosso during his visit to Doha and here is what he said about his passion for football and AC Milan, starting a revolution in world of football uniforms and the secret of Diesel’s success.

Football Qatar: You have been a longtime devoted fan of AC Milan, tell us how it all began?

Renzo Rosso: “I started supporting AC Milan when I was a kid, I fell in love with the team in the times of Gianni Rivera, there was that famous rivalry between him and the Inter Milan captain Sandro Mazzola, and Milan was one of the best teams in Europe. I followed every match, on every weekend and of course the European cups. There were good times and bad times for the team, but I never stopped supporting them. Now I have seven sons and daughters, and all of us support AC Milan and attend the matches in San Siro.”

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Do you remember your first match in San Siro?

It is difficult, that was a long time ago, but I think I was 15 years old at that time, it was a Milan derby against Inter and we won 3-0, may be it was 1970, the squad on that day included the likes of Rivera and Cesare Maldini. It was a very special moment.

What was the best Milan side you have ever seen? And the most memorable match?

The best times for AC Milan I think were the times of Arrigo Sacchi as coach, and the team that included Marco Van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard, it was the best decade for Milan, we won a lot of trophies, and lived some incredible moments. There are many great matches, I still remember the day we beat Steaua Bucarest at Camp Nou to win the European Cup title in 1989, but there were some hard moments too like the Champions League final in Istanbul against Liverpool in 2005, it was unimaginable, at half time we were 3-0 and were celebrating what we thought would be an even bigger victory, but at the end of the day we lost the match on penalties!

Let’s talk about the new partnership between Diesel and AC Milan, can you shed some light on the deal?

We signed an agreement to be the Styling partners for AC Milan for the next three years, Diesel is a very brave brand, we have done very crazy things over the past decades, and it always proved successful. I have told Barbara Berlusconi we want to come on board but only if you allow us to create something innovative. She said yes, and we presented the project and reached a deal.

We wanted to change the classic uniform that most football players in most teams wear these days, you can see how different this uniform looks, the hooded blazer, Kanye West style, the comfortable Jogg jeans, this the first product we present to them, and we will present more products soon, and it will be available in shops for the fans too.

Diesel has been involved in sponsorship and partnership agreements with sports event since a long time, why did you wait till now to get into the football world?

Yes, at some point we were involved in sponsoring teams and events in many sports like Motorsports, then we turned our focus on music and entertainment, and now we have to go back to sport, it is a very important sector, and football of course is the most popular sport.

We always make sure we arrive in an influential way, what we showed today is just the first step, it is a change to a very modern look with AC Milan, there are more to come, the football players are now followed by millions all over the world through social media, a football player has to be more stylish and more cool. I am sure many football teams will follow our approach soon.

You also own a football team in Italy, Bassano Virtus 55, tell us more about this project?

Bassano Del Grappa is where I live and it is the headquarters of Diesel, it is where everything started, we bought the team in 1996, and have been running it in a very professional way, all teams in Serie A and B admire our way of managing this team. This year the team reached the Lega Pro (third-tier) and it will be great if we reached Serie B in three or four seasons.

But our main target from Bassano Virtus is to give something back to the society and to the people who live in the region, we provide the best football training programs for the kids in the north east region of Italy, we give them an opportunity to develop their talents and learn, it is very important for us.

When you started Diesel in 1978 did you have a big plan for the huge success you achieved at this moment?

No, I never worked with focus on making money, I focused instead on creating something new, on fresh ideas, creating something revolutionary, a beautiful product, I was patient and worked on each detail, made sure that the quality of our product is like no other, and of course I did not do all that by myself, I did it with the help of friends who shared the same passion, it was team work. Those wonderful people worked very hard and at the end we won, and Diesel became a famous brand.

What would you advice anyone who wants to start a new project but might not be sure of its success?

Focus on creating something bigger, better, and different, focus on high quality, and never stop dreaming of reaching new heights. That’s the approach I follow every day. Be patient and have passion for what you do. The day I stop thinking this way and focus on numbers, it will be the time for me to stop and do something different.

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