With Renzo Rosso at the helm, OTB Group is emerging as a company that does good for both the planet and people.
In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, Renzo Rosso, founder and president of Diesel and its parent OTB, mobilized group executives to help temporarily out of work employees.
In a unanimous show of solidarity, managers donated at least five vacation days, with the monetary value of the time off added to a fund for lower income staff. Rosso also contributed by waiving half of his 2020 compensation.
The company’s focus on doing good includes both people and planet. Diesel kicked off 2020 by introducing a new sustainable strategy developed with Eco-Age that addresses traceability, corporate culture and material innovation. The brand also bowed a new upcycled line, which reworked samples, deadstock and prototypes into new designs.
Diesel’s show of responsibility has also translated into its pandemic response, with the debut of an antimicrobial capsule collection and a digital exhibition space that functions as an alternative to in-person buying appointments. The virtual showrooms have the added sustainable benefit of reducing travel and sample production.
What will the denim industry be like in the next 18 months?
This moment challenges our notions of how collections will look and how customers will spend their money. Our product philosophy has to adjust accordingly—collections will be smaller and more compact, built with a more realistic approach, somehow simplified, with a focus on comfort, less occasion-driven, addressing everyday needs. This doesn’t mean at all compromising on quality. Quite the contrary, we’ll increase it even more. It has to be maintained at the highest possible level. Creativity has to be absolutely protected; it’s always front and center for us and has to remain so.
Fashion is an incredible tool for self-expression, reinventing itself constantly. Creativity will help us go forward and look at a different future, experimenting on new solutions. For example, this emergency will help us reconsider the quality and nature of fibers we’ll use in our production chain, expanding and developing technologies to research new ways forward. Antibacterial fibers, or fabrics both comfortable and protective, possibly with waterproof treatments to repel droplets carrying viruses.
Technology in general is playing an important creative part in our lives at the moment, and obviously will be part of a new way of showing our collections too. We have recently launched Hyperoom, a new boundary-breaking digital platform and exhibition space conceived by OTB to facilitate efficient—and inviting—fashion buying in the new world, but also a project called Moon, the new omnichannel operating model designed to significantly upgrade the company’s digital retail operations.
What change would you like to see in the denim industry as a result of Covid-19?
Currently the denim industry is not particularly sustainable. Diesel wants to change that. Above all, we are reducing water consumption. Normally 1,000 liters of water are needed to produce one pair of jeans. We can’t change the water consumption in cotton production, but we can in the dyeing process. Today we use 80 percent of the water for several washing processes.
How do you define sustainability in a post-pandemic world?
This is an important question, and in a way, you could argue that we never defined sustainability properly even before the pandemic. I guess this is what brought me to launch our new strategy, as I realized there were so many different aspects to just one term. Our industry touches so many different things from fibers to dyes and all other aspects of production, and from shipping to retail. I mean, it’s a long list. And any sustainability strategy has to deal with all of them, or it means nothing.
Post pandemic, we have to deal with the huge issues of whether or not are we really going to go back to where we were before. My answer is no, we are not. So, let’s see how we become sustainable even in how many collections we will be doing. There are a lot of decisions that “Only The Brave” will take.
Describe your dream jeans.
My dream jeans is sustainable. Our engagement on sustainability is unwavering; it’s one of the pillars of our strategy. Making the sustainable process happen will become one of our greatest commitments going forward. We want to become a company with the best sustainable practices: real, certified, and honest. We’ve already been working on upcycling, we reuse deadstock and leftovers from our warehouses, giving them new life, as I truly believe that this is an effective way to reduce waste on many levels.
What is your most worn pair of jeans, and why?
Probably my first pair of jeans. In 1970, at home, I made one pair of jeans that was completely different from what I was taught at school. They were super long, 42 inches in the leg and really flared. I was just experimenting. I stitched the jeans on my mum’s machine. A friend of mine—who got it from another friend—gave me some American denim. I applied my fantasy to what I had learnt and somehow it worked.
Name one word that best describes denim.
For me, denim it's a kind of rebellion. It stands for the time around 1968, when children rebelled against their parents, with long hair and The Rolling Stones. Until I was 12, I only wore my older brother’s pants. I didn't know of any new pants. So, I was incredibly happy about my first pair of jeans. The best thing was the label. I felt like a king in school. Denim is as beautiful as autumn leaves. Above all, a pair of jeans means good feelings, comfort, blue sky, weekends; it brings us closer to nature, which itself is constantly falling apart.