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Circular Catalyst: Why Diesel Turned to Spin-Off Brand to Launch Upcycled Garments

When Diesel developed the “For Responsible Living” strategy early in 2020 alongside sustainability consultancy group Eco-Age, the brand sought to launch a plan to “be the alternative” to prevent fabric waste. Soon after the partnership, Diesel unveiled the first iteration of its Diesel Upcycling For series dedicated to a more sustainable, circular, fashion industry.

The leader behind the project is Andrea Rosso, Diesel’s sustainability ambassador and upcycling artistic director, as well as the son of Diesel president and founder Renzo Rosso. Rosso is spearheading the ongoing series with six capsule collections created with different designers and without the use of any virgin materials.

“For me, to use waste is one of the most beautiful things that you can do,” Rosso said. “If you can create something and give a second life to a product that is destined for landfill, it’s better to stop and think about doing it. So we did, and the upcycling collection was born.”

The first of these collections, Upcycling for 55DSL, debuted during Milan Fashion Week in February with a launch party at the city’s flagship. Seamstresses at the store put together a performance, stitching the limited-edition garments as onlookers watched.

As former creative director of Diesel’s experimental spin-off 55DSL brand, Rosso took deadstock, samples and prototypes from the Diesel and 55DSL archives and stitched them together to create new more street-inspired garments for the ’90s-inspired capsule collection, which was designed and sold for the Spring/Summer 2020 season. For example, checked shirts and color swatches may be pieced together into fresh silhouettes, while mineral tie-dye treatments revamp the fabrics.

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“We don’t go to the supplier, but instead we go to the warehouse where the yarns and fabrics were already produced years ago to scout out materials that we can bring back to life,” Rosso said.

The collection included 5,555 total pieces from a selection of approximately 30 styles, sold through various Diesel stores and wholesalers, as well as on their e-commerce site. Retail prices ranged between affordable and luxury, from $58 to $664.

Highlights of the upcycling collection included a hooded jacket made from recycled denim, a shirt crafted from two existing tops—one with a check pattern, the other made from denim—and even a satchel backpack exclusively crafted using existing denim fabric.

To ensure that shoppers get a full sense of traceability regarding the product, a QR code was printed inside each garment so anyone can scan and read its entire history, with a photographic timeline that includes details of the manufacturing process, materials used and the certifications for the product. Additionally, the packaging for the collection is designed to be 100 percent recyclable and consists of a small bag made 50 percent in biopolymer.

Although the capsule collections are designed to be released every six months (two per year for three years), the second collection has not been released, and Diesel and Rosso have been otherwise mum on the details of the collection. Getting this kind of project off the ground requires education for what materials to seek out and what techniques are most efficient, Rosso believes, as well as a little bit of internal motivation.

“It’s a kind of competition process through which everyone is trying their best in order to bring more innovation, more ideas,” Rosso said.