Diesel founder taken aback by race for young designers

Sun Sep 29, 2013 9:43am EDT
 
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By Astrid Wendlandt

PARIS (Reuters) - Renzo Rosso, the founder of Diesel, says competition for hot designers is now as intense as for football stars, as shown by the speed at which big luxury groups such as LVMH are investing in promising new fashion names.

"Fashion is like soccer, only champions make a difference," said the tattooed 58-year-old entrepreneur as he sat in the showroom of one of his brands, Maison Martin Margiela, in a converted 19th century convent in Paris.

Earlier this month, two fledgling British fashion brands Rosso had been following for more than two years, J.W. Anderson and Nicholas Kirkwood, were taken over by LVMH, the industry leader.

"We also considered investing in them but we never expected LVMH to move so quickly," Rosso told Reuters before the Margiela show at Paris Fashion Week.

Rosso made an estimated $3 billion fortune from the stone-washed jeans brand Diesel he founded in 1978 and which grew with the help of off-the-wall advertising campaigns.

Rosso also runs fashion brands Viktor & Rolf and Marni through his OTB (Only the Brave) holding company. His Staff International unit makes and distributes clothes under license for brands including Just Cavalli, DSquared2 and Vivienne Westwood.

Rosso spends much of his time surveying the work of young designers to see if one day they could work for him or if their labels have the potential to become global brands.

The race among big luxury groups such as LVMH and Kering to attract young designers comes as at a time when growth has slowed down at their big brands, Louis Vuitton and Gucci respectively.   Continued...

 
Founder of Diesel clothing company Renzo Rosso gestures as he poses in front of Rialto Bridge in Venice December 14, 2012. REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri