Home Luxury brand Diesel Jeans founder aims to build Italian rival to compete with LVMH and Kering

Diesel Jeans founder aims to build Italian rival to compete with LVMH and Kering


The founder of jeans brand Diesel and owner of fashion brands Jil Sander and Marni has said he wants to build an Italian luxury conglomerate to compete with French groups such as Kering and LVMH.

Renzo Rosso, chairman of holding company Only The Brave, founded Diesel in 1978 at the age of 23 and went on to build a fashion company that employs 6,000 people worldwide across seven brands.

“Italy doesn’t have a domestic luxury conglomerate like the French,” he told the Financial Times in an interview. “My plan is to create one.”

OTB is considering an IPO and Rosso is recruiting bankers to advise it. “Of course our [market capitalisation] will be different from the big French groups, but my ambition is to show that Italian brands can come together and strengthen each other.

The European luxury industry has been caught up in some of the effects of sanctions against Russia after its invasion of Ukraine. In March, the EU banned exports of goods worth more than 300 euros to Russia, effectively ending the luxury fashion trade.

But while the likes of Russian President Vladimir Putin are known to be fans of Italian luxury brands, Russia is not a primary destination for the industry.

It is only Italy’s 14th largest global trading partner and, according to Italy’s national fashion chamber, the country’s luxury goods exports to Russia amounted to 1.4 billion euros a year before. the war.

“The lockdown in parts of China has been a much bigger concern for me than the war in Ukraine in terms of impacting our business,” Rosso said. Russia and Ukraine account for around 2% of OTB’s annual revenue, which grew to €1.53 billion in 2021 from €1.3 billion the previous year. It has no stores in either country.

Asia, on the other hand, is a key market for the group. It opened a branch in South Korea last year, and Japan alone accounts for 25% of its total revenue.

Rosso said a third of the group’s investments over the next three years would be focused on expanding into China. OTB currently has 80 stores in the country, where it employs nearly 1,000 people. It aims to double the number of stores and staff by 2024.

Rosso is a board member of the National Fashion Chamber. He said he and other high-profile figures – including Patrizio Bertelli of Prada, Remo Ruffini of Moncler, Gildo Zegna and Angela Missoni – were working to modernize the industry and that it would eventually evolve from its family model. traditional.

So far, it has been the big French conglomerates, like Kering and LVMH, that have seized the opportunities to buy big Italian brands like Gucci, Bulgari and Bottega Veneta.

Rosso is one of the few people in the Italian fashion scene to have followed a similar path, acquiring Maison Margiela and Marni before buying Jil Sander and up-and-coming label Amiri. “We will consider further expansion before listing,” Rosso said.

“It’s not easy, but we’re looking for brands that can strengthen our luxury positioning. We will demonstrate to the world that even Italy can have its own luxury conglomerate.

Rosso’s personal fortune is estimated at around €2.5bn but he is very attached to his roots and still lives in his north-eastern hometown of Bassano del Grappa.

Since the start of the war, he has brought more than 440 Ukrainian refugees to Italy and supported them through the foundation run by his wife Arianna Alessi, local NGOs, and donations from citizens and other businesses.

“We gave them accommodation near our headquarters [in the Veneto region] and I hired about 20 women across the whole group,” Rosso said. Italian brand Intimissimi provided them with pajamas and underwear, he said, adding: “We have seen an outpouring of generosity from locals and businesses.”

He said that although sanctions and war would affect the sector, it was important to take a stand against the invasion of Ukraine.

“The videos of the war that these women showed us of their partners made me realize that what we see on television is not even half the story and it is just devastating.”