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Diesel’s Renaissance Makes the Brand Cool—and Profitable—Again

Diesel is experiencing a renaissance of sorts.

Two years ago, the denim brand reported declining sales, and just months ago in March 2019, the U.S. arm filed for bankruptcy protection, triggering the close of its underperforming locations across the country.

But now, as highlighted in an interview with Vogue Business, the denim brand has made a comeback—and it’s thanks to a number of changes and strategies spearheaded by founder Renzo Rosso.

For one, Rosso made a series of staffing changes to breathe new life into the brand. He returned to managing Diesel full-time as its CEO, removed almost all of his direct reports and named his son, Stefano Rosso, the CEO of Diesel’s North American operations.

The denim veteran also shifted his focus away from all of his other business affiliations—including his role as an investor at about 20 companies and a board member at a percentage of them—and onto the brand’s rebirth.

Many of the new strategies, ironically, were adopted from the streetwear industry that contributed to Diesel’s initial decline. Last year, he launched a “Red tag” sub-label of Diesel dedicated to collaborations that boast exclusivity and resale potential, two key elements streetwear labels have used to generate their loyal followings. Under the label, the brand collaborated with Yuta Hosokawa of Readymade, Shayne Oliver of Hood By Air, Glenn Martens of Y/Project, Gosha Rubchinskiy of GR-Uniforma and Samuel Ross of A-Cold-Wall.

Rosso said he also doubled down on his push toward quality over quantity and shut down Diesel’s more affordable lines, which he said were “diluting the brand.” While this cut the U.S. business in half, he was confident that building a more premium brand and initiating exclusive collaborations with high-end designers was the right move.

And it was.

Rosso told Vogue Business that the brand began operating “in the green” this past summer, net sales for the year will be “close to double digits on a percentage basis” and worldwide foot traffic in Diesel stores has grown 7 percent.

“This is a good strategy to make the brand cool again,” his son Stefano told Vogue. “When you have a beautiful car, you take it for granted, and you start to look at other cars. I think that’s what we did with denim.”