“I wanted to show how beautiful our product was, in front of them,” says Rosso, with a mischievous grin spread across his tan, unshaven face. Diesel didn’t have enough merchandise to fill the entire 15,000-square-foot space when we first opened in 1996, so Rosso did what seemed logical to him and built a bar and DJ booth. “In the beginning every few months we’d close the store at 6 o’clock and throw a party,” he says in his Italian accent. “And we would party.”
With 6 kids at age 57, Russo says he is retired from the partying but the brand continues to do the partying for him. What initially started as a premium denim jean brand, Diesel has turned into a lifestyle brand from t-shirts to glasses to fancy chairs. This empire has put it’s founder on this years billionaire list and has him estimated for being worth $3 billion. Even though he owns 100% of Diesel, it is also due to the fact that he has been snatching up majority stakes in small, prestigious fashion brands under the holding company called Only the Brave.
After taking his mother’s Singer sewing machine and making his first pair of 16 1/2″ bell-bottom jeans, which he then started selling to friends for a couple bucks, Russo joined the jean guru Adriano Goldschmied at Moltex, current founder of AG Jeans, at an early age. Thanks to a $4,000 loam from Russo’s father, he became 40% owner of Moltex at age 22 and then in 1978 they renamed the company Diesel, a nod to the decade’s oil crises. At this time, diesel had suddenly became a viable fuel alternative. The fashion world didn’t handle the name well at first but with patience, acceptance evolved and the rest is history. From premium denim jeans to premium home furnishings, Diesel has become a large player when it comes to lifestyle brands.