If you've ever found yourself overthinking the wash of your jeans, you can thank Renzo Rosso, the soccer-playing, motorcycle-riding 54-year-old owner of Diesel. His name may not be as recognizable as those of other fashion icons, but he's had just as much influence on the way you dress. Over the years, Rosso's nearly $2 billion alternative luxury empire has evolved well beyond denim to include vanguard labels like Viktor & Rolf, Maison Martin Margiela, and Dsquared. When he's not throwing parties for 25,000 of his closest friends, getting private time with the Dalai Lama, or inspecting renovations at his hotel, the Pelican, in Miami, the globe-trotting Rosso likes to practice his downward-facing dog. Details caught up with the tattooed Italian on his private jet to talk about why his life is never boring.
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Q: Diesel has had tremendous success over the past 20 years. Do you ever worry it's gotten too big?
A: We're actually in a period of transformation. We made the mistake of taking the product in a direction that was too high-end, and it got confusing. We're making Diesel Diesel again: young, rebellious, fresh, and modern.
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Q: So you're shaking up your company?
A: Yes. Diesel needs new energy. We're getting a new design team in. I promise that in the next six months to a year, Diesel will be completely fresh. We're changing everything.
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Q: Sounds like you're not afraid to admit mistakes.
A: I don't bullshit. I'm not fake. My parents were farmers. They taught me dignity and to have shame if I do something that doesn't turn out right. I've made mistakes. Last night I saw [hotelier] André Balazs, and I thought to myself, I should have taken him up on his offer to do a hotel together years ago.
Q: If you were to lose everything tomorrow, what would you do?
A: I started from nothing, so I'm not afraid to have nothing. Anyplace I go, I know I'll be able to earn people's trust and do something.
Q: You're 54, the father of six, and you're dating a 33-year-old. Are you as content as you seem?
A: I try to be happy and tranquil, and I work out every day—either yoga or running. It was a difficult year. I suffered a lot. My son was in a car accident and in a coma. I separated from the mother of my three youngest children. We were together 15 years. I was really in love with her, but sometimes things end. I look to stay true to who I am and be happy.
Q: You're a joker—was stating your undying loyalty to Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi serious?
A: I like irony, but sometimes I go too far and people aren't sure if I'm being serious or not. Everything about me and my company is ironic. Without irony, life is just sad.
Q: Tonight it's New York, tomorrow you'll be riding horses with your twin girls on your vineyard in Veneto, and the next day you're off to Rome. Do you ever get fed up with all the traveling?
A: Many mornings I wake up and I don't even know where I am. I'm like most people in that, yeah, I complain—but I love what I do. Every day I'm working on something different—jeans, sunglasses, bags, watches, clothes, interior design, stores, windows, a hotel, and even wine. I can never tire of my job. It's not boring. I'm a lucky man.