Malm Niisson, Anki Sjostr6tny Armeli Zett
DURING TUB oiL CRISIS IN 1978, the idea of a trademark called Diesel came to Renzo Rosso, the son of an Italian farmer. To him Diesel represented something that everybody needs and always will need. Tie kept this in mind until 1985, when the real Diesel story began. In that year he decided to produce and sell clothes that he himself liked to wear; clothes that represented his lifestyle. His wild and masculine 'Renzo Rosso style' is what Diesel Jeans & Work wear is all about. It is a way of living ...
Blue jeans are the most successful elothes ever invented and the world's largest clothing companies depend on them. Why has this 'all American' workwear become the global uniform? Sociologist John Fiske tries to explain. He onee asked a class to write down what jeans meant to each of them. He got back a set of staggeringly uniform results. Jeans were American, informal, classless, unisex and appropriate in town or country. Wearing them was a sign of freedom from constraints on behaviour and of class membership. Free was the word most commonly used, usually expressing 'freedom to be oneself. By wearing jeans, Fiske's class were expressing their 'freedom to be themselves', yet 118 out of 125 students were 'being themselves' by wearing the same clothes, jeans. With everyone wearing the same clothes, people who are really fnx go one step further to
° Halmstad University, Sweden.
express themselves. Rockers wore greasy ones, mods smart ones, hippies old ones, skinheads new ones, punks damaged ones, indies torn ones and grunge shabby ones - but they all wore jeans.
Jeans are no longer as uniform, or cheap, as they used to be. The generic jeans, foundation of the Levi Strauss and Wrangler empires, mean classless, country, comnmnal, unisex, work, traditional, unchanging and American. But not so designer jeans. These reached their zenith when Pakistan-born Shami Ahmed exhibited his Manchester-made, diamond-studded, Joe Bloggs jeans costing £150,000 a pair. In contrast to generic jeans, designer jeans mean up-market, city, socially distinctive, (usually) feminine, leisure, contemporary, transient and not American. So transient and non-American are Joe Bloggs jeans that the range changes twelve times a year and West Indian cricketer Brian Lara promotes their 375 and 501 range. The ranges are named after Lara's record-breaking batting scores, although Levi's is not happy about the Joe Bloggs 501 name.
Jeans are now not only high fashion, but'the foundation for many new fashions. Jeans are the uniform of the street culture, and leading designers, such as Versace, Westwood, Gaultier and Lagerh'eld, concede that there is now a very strong 'bubble up' effect where the streets lead fashion. Top jeans companies 'bubble up' in the same way as street fashions do. Shami Ahmed and Renzo Rosso are typical of the clothing entrepreneurs who are leading the way in Europe's dynamic and varied fashion market, and foremost among these businesses is Rosso's Diesel Jeans & Workvvear, a European firm that aims to overtake Levi's and become the world's no, 1 jeans company.
To work for Rosso, you have to understand the Diesel concept. You have to love Diesel and devote your life to the company. This company spirit imbues the whole organization and is presumably the reason for Diesel's success. For example, Diesel is probably the only company where all employees, even the management team, wear Diesel clothes.
Rosso has managed to create a multinational concern out of Diesel. The turnover is approximately L8,000,000 million and rising. The profit margin of between 10 and 15 per cent is almost all reinvested in the company. This makes Diesel very strong financially. Today, Diesel is no. 2 in Europe after the American jeans-giant Levi's. Its goal is to become no. 1.
Diesel is today represented in 69 countries worldwide. Of Diesel's 3,000 employees, 150 work at its headquarters at Moldava, Italy. Small family-owned companies in northern Italy carry out about 70 per cent of production, and the rest is spread around low-cost countries such as Hong Kong. Thailand and Korea.
The Diesel collection contains jeans, jackets, sweaters, shoes, underwear and belts for both men and women. These account for 60 per cent of Diesel's products. The remainder includes sportswear, kids' wear and perfume for men. Diesel's products are sold through hand-picked agents, licensees and subsidiaries. Franchising is not popular as there is a risk of losing control of the company profile. Education and training of the international network is intensive. The resellers have a lot to live up to. They have to understand the Diesel concept and sell clothes thatgo well with Diesel.
Diesel has only two shops of its own, one in Berlin and the other in Stockholm. New stores in Paris, Rome and New York will open soon. There were strategic reasons for opening the first two flagship stores in Stockholm
Case 19: iJicscl Jeans & Work/wear
B4i and Berlin. Germany is Diesel's largest market: 25 per cent of production is sold there. Sweden is seen as receptive to new fashions and useful for test marketing. Also, Diesel's vice-president and head of international marketing, Johan Lindeberg, is Swedish. Together with local advertising agency Paradiset, he directs all Diesel's marketing activities from his Swedish headquarters.
Lindeherg and Paradiset elaim that much of their marketing success derives from their lack of respect for marketing strategies and their trend-setting advertising. Adverts arc sent by courier-post from Paradiset to distributors in other countries which decide the local marketing arrangements themselves. Local distributors spend 5 per cent of their turnover on national marketing, while Diesel spends 7 per cent of its total turnover on internationals such as MTV and Sky Sport.
Paradiset has two ideas in mind when creating an advert; The ad should be conspicuous and also contain an ironic message. Diesel's advertising is targeted at modern intelligent people. Diesel often makes fun of current myths, as, for example, in its 'How to ...' campaign. In this campaign, one advert showed the cranium of a girl sucking on a cigarette. The test read, 'How to smoke 145 a day' and 'Man, who needs two lungs anyway?' This message caused much controversy in the United States, where Diesel was criticized for encouraging young people to smoke.
Rosso has his own way of running a company. He follows his own path, ignoring conventional marketing approaches - and it certainly works! Diesel has great growth potential. Rosso believes that, in the long run, a good organization structure is much more important than good advertising. According to Rosso, a strong company is one 'with strong collaborators'. This requires work that employees enjoy and, above all, work that they find interesting. 'When you trust your own and your collaborators' intuitions, feelings and judgements, and not only text-book theories,' says Rosso, 'then you have reached the Diesel feeling.' Since Rosso owns 100 per cent of Diesel, he has his hands free to do whatever he wants. To buy other companies or to be listed on the stock exchange is not 'the Renzo Rosso style' and neither would he leave Moldava. The company's vision is expressed in its slogan: you need Diesel 'for successful living'.
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