Renzo Rosso on Naomi Campbell, Demining, Charity in Fashion and Revamping Diesel
“Fashion has incredible visibility and that makes it very easy to communicate. That’s why it’s fashion’s duty to help. We all receive so much from this life, we have to give something back,” said Renzo Rosso, at the launch of Child At Heart, a capsule collection created with Naomi Campbell to help the supermodel’s aid projects in Africa.
The debut comes at a delicate moment for Diesel which is undergoing a carefully calibrated repositioning under its creative director Nicola Formichetti. Diesel’s latest linkup is with Campbell – a selection of T-Shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies all bearing the multi-heart illustration of Campbell’s charity, which first began back in 1993 when she started working with Nelson Mandela’s Children Fund. The actual designs were made by kids in the Diesel company nursery school at headquarters in the Veneto region of Italy.
“Working with Renzo means we could reach a huge audience, and raise money to help so many children in Africa,” Campbell told FashionNetwork.com. The 46-year-old supermodel revealed that on May 21 she will stage a mega runway shows in Cannes during the festival, followed by a VIP charity dinner for 400.
Campbell dreamed up the Diesel project while talking to Formichetti at an amfAR dinner in Milan. “And the next thing, Naomi was on stage announcing it! Which made it official,” laughs Formichetti, inside Diesel’s Paris flagship on rue Montmartre, as hundreds of fans packed into the two-floor boutique.
In Rosso’s view the Millennial generation see themselves as members of a global community fighting pollution and injustice. They have a sense of social responsibility and measure people and corporations in terms of sustainability and behavior.
“Millennials understand that we could destroy our whole planet,” argued Rosso. Bankrolled by his fashion empire, which includes Marni, Viktor&Rolf and Maison Margiela, with collective annual revenues of over 1.5 billion euros, Rosso has funded multiple projects in Africa for over 15 years. From sustaining a village of 20,000 in Mali - building infrastructure, sewage systems, health care facilities and even an Internet point. To financing Apopo, a Belgian nonprofit that has created an army of TNT-sniffing African rats to clear minefields.
“We demined 45,000 hectares in Mozambique and Tanzania and returned them to farmers,” beamed Arianna Alessi, Renzo’s partner who oversees the OTB Foundation. Her latest idea: financing Saathi, an Indian project to create affordable sanitary protection from waste banana tree fiber, thus encouraging young rural women to attend school. Some 3,000 young ladies already use them in 10 schools.
At home, Rosso is busy revamping Diesel, edging the brand upmarket and relocating stores, like its NYC flagship which went from 5th Avenue to Madison.
“Fifth Avenue now is in a nose dive!” shuddered Rosso, who also closed licenses, mass department store accounts and reined Diesel’s global sales network.
“We suffered with numbers – reducing business by 200 million euros. We closed cheaper, mass department stores. We cut sales in (mass etailer) Zalando by 50%. Before it was discount, discount, discount. Now we never do sales,” he trumpeted.
Image wise, Formichetti latest campaign “Make Love not Walls,” has underlined a far more inclusive message. Rosso, Formichetti and Campbell celebrated the launch with dinner for 24 in the Italian embassy, on rue de Varenne, where guests dined on Italian asparagus, Rosso’s Venetian wines and his Diesel Farm olive oil. Though conversation was dominated by the Champs Elysees attack, as CRS paramilitary police closed off the block, which contains the French prime minister’s residence, the Hotel Matignon.
“When will it ever stop,” sighed Campbell, dressed all in black with a Child At Heart T-Shirt. Diesel will retail the line in 145 stores worldwide, with a new ad campaign shot by Giampaolo Sgura. It stars Campbell, Formichetti and a cast including Kenya Kinski-Jones, daughter of Quincy Jones; and Nastassja Kinski; and Aaron De Niro, son of Robert De Niro and Toukie Smith.
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