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Diesel Rebrand, Sustainability Strategy Drove Earnings in 2021

When it’s deliver-or-die, supply chains become the lifeblood of a company. To that end, the fashion industry has embraced technology to navigate today’s hyper-complicated supply chain, with myriad solutions shaping the first, middle and last mile. Call it Sourcing 2.0.

Last year was “a year of important growth” for OTB, the fashion and luxury group that owns Diesel, Jil Sander, Maison Margiela, Marni and Viktor&Rolf, the Staff International and Brave Kid companies, and holds a minority investment in ‘It’ brand Amiri.

In a financial statement for the period ending Dec. 31, the Italian company reported that its earnings have finally returned to pre-pandemic levels, with net sales reached $1.71 billion (1.5 billion euros) in 2021, up 18 percent compared to 2020. The surge is due largely to its luxury business, across brands Marni, Maison Margiela, Viktor&Rolf and newly acquired Jil Sander—which generated a profit in just nine months—as well as its heightened performance in North American and the Asia Pacific regions.

“2021 was a richly satisfying year during which we reached—and in some cases beat—all our targets in particularly challenging economic and social conditions,” said Ubaldo Minelli, OTB CEO. “As a result of the work of the last few years, the group is in a stronger position to take the next steps in its ambitious strategic plan from now to 2024.”

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Also driving the success is Diesel’s rebrand, spearheaded by Glenn Martens, who was appointed to the brand as creative director in October 2020. During his first year, he guided Diesel through a “new phase of development” that helped position it within the alternative luxury segment.

Diesel, in addition to Maison Margiela and Marni, underwent a “restyling” of its e-commerce sites, which gave OTB a 6 percent boost in direct online sales from 2020, and a 34 percent spike from 2019.

OTB brands also got a sustainability update in 2021 with the launch of the “Be Responsible. Be Brave” sustainability strategy focusing on three main areas: safeguarding the environment, attention to products and social commitment. By 2030, it says its operations will be carbon neutral. To achieve this goal, it unveiled several circularity initiatives through Diesel, including a Diesel jeans buyback program and Diesel Second Hand, a resale business available in Milan, Florence and Rome.

The buyback program launched in July, and by November it had collected and reconditioned 900 pairs of Diesel jeans washed and treated with Polygiene’s anti-microbial and odor-resistant ViralOff and OdorCrunch technology. The buyback program will continue to remain active in Italy, with plans to expand to other countries.

“The values that have always distinguished OTB Group are a commitment to fostering creativity, diversity and courage, speed and agility, support for talent and backing for the whole supply chain,” said OTB chairman Renzo Rosso. “These are the factors that will guide our growth over the coming years, with a close eye on sustainability, which for me has always been a long-term investment.”

OTB embraced the move to the metaverse, debuting a new business unit in December dedicated to developing products for the virtual world. Led by Stefano Rosso, who serves as a member of the OTB board of directors and the board of Aura Blockchain Consortium, the venture will help the company generate new business opportunities and connect with younger demographics most likely to spearhead the shift to the digital community.

Diesel’s virtual offerings are leading the charge. The same month OTB launched its metaverse business unit, Diesel debuted its Prototype sneaker, which will eventually be available as a limited-edition nonfungible token (NFT) created by digital fashion house The Fabricant, the brains behind a number of brands’ digital-only clothing and accessories. According to Renzo Rosso, this is just the beginning of the company’s virtual journey.

“We are following the most significant developments in the virtual worlds and the metaverse, so that once again we can be pioneers in a completely new dimension in which we strongly believe,” he said.