Originality the key to fashion pioneer Renzo Rosso’s business success

Renzo Rosso outlined his approach to fashion and business at a business forum supported by NAB as part of the recent Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival. He discussed inspiration and especially the importance of originality and innovation.

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Renzo Rosso’s business philosophy sounds simple.

“I work to do beautiful things,” says the founder of global fashion brand Diesel.

Rosso outlined his approach to fashion and business at a business forum supported by NAB as part of the recent Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival. He discussed inspiration and especially the importance of originality and innovation.

“Nobody wants to see something that already exists,” he says. “But if you do something new, something fresh, something modern this is what you need. Even if you are small, people will say who is this guy?”

While he’s best known as a designer, Rosso’s business credentials are certainly impressive.

He founded jeans maker Diesel in the late 1970s and has grown it and other brands into a business which takes in over EURO 1.56 billion a year, according to the Business of Fashion website . Along the way, it has also made Rosso a billionaire.

In the years after his company bought French luxury fashion house Maison Martin Margiela, he is said to have quintupled its revenue by opening new stores and diversifying its offerings.

The company has acquired a host of other brands and Rosso is now president of the OTB Group,  the parent company of labels including Maison Martin Margiela, Marni, Viktor & Rolf, Diesel, SDSquared², Just Cavalli, Vivienne Westwood, and Marc Jacobs Men.

OTB is short for ‘Only the Brave’ and Rosso says it sums up his philosophy to doing business.

“I think it’s me,” he says of the name.

“All my life I have done something different. I try to make things better and in a better way, with more originality and more freshness.”

The Italian designer is also a pioneer in the business of fashion.

Diesel was among the first fashion houses to bring in “real serious managers” in the 1990s who didn’t necessarily have a background in fashion but instead had experience in multinational companies in other industries.

He says he also had the first fax machines in Italy in the early 1980s, when they were about the size of a small refrigerator, so he could quickly communicate with his agents around the country and not have to rely on the slow and inefficient mail system.

Rosso says he draws his inspiration from everything around him. “Pay attention to everything,” he says. “The day you stop looking around, you’re dead.”

He is also inspired by the people around him and stresses that really listening to someone is very important. “This is very clever because people don’t want to listen, they just want to think about themselves, but if you start to listen and start to understand what is inside the brain, what is inside the heart of the people talking, you can start to see the world in a different way,” he says.

Young people and students in particular are a source of inspiration. In fact, before he addressed the business seminar, he had spoken to fashion students at Melbourne’s RMIT University.

“Students are very important. It’s so nice working with them. They see the world in a different way, they see it as how the world can be,” he says.

Rosso says he enjoys working with start-up and these can provide ideas for his own large and established business.

“It’s nice for me to see young people working on a start-up and creating a company and creating jobs that didn’t exist,” he says. “When I go back to my company I want to change everything. My company looks old.”

Finally, Rosso has a tip about sending emails – a few lines is best. “If you’re not able to put it in 10 lines the concept of why you want my attention, you are no one,” he says.

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