Diesel’s Andrea Rosso: “To Use Waste is One of the Most Beautiful Things You Can Do”

This weekend during Milan Fashion Week, Diesel launched DIESEL UPCYCLING FOR: a new series of reworked collections showcasing a bold message about sustainability to the fashion industry. We spoke to creative director Andrea Rosso about the brand’s new incentive to reduce waste and present an alternative way of thinking. 

Last week, fashion’s front row flocked to Milan with the promise of another season of sartorial silhouettes and inimitable trends, done as only the Italians can. Yet as the industry eagerly anticipated what the fashion capital would bring to FW20, Diesel chose to use its space in the spotlight to place sustainability firmly on the schedule.

Amid the busy agenda of runway shows and presentations, the brand launched their new DIESEL UPCYCLING FOR initiative: an ongoing series with six capsule collections created with different designers and without the use of any virgin materials. “In Milan, there is a lot of buzz and curiosity around whatever is coming out on the catwalk,” creative director of licences Andrea Rosso tells Eco-Age, when asked why the brand wanted to address the environmental impact of the industry at the bi-annual event. “When you are at the centre of this attention, it’s a good moment to show a completely different approach. For me, putting upcycling on the Milan Fashion Week schedule is an important educational step in highlighting sustainability to the fashion world.”

Created in collaboration with 55DSL, the brand’s creative spinoff formerly headed by Rosso himself, the collection aims to reduce the consumption of materials as well as decreasing energy use, air and water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. The designs see Diesel’s deadstock, samples and prototypes become confident patchworks and street-inspired layers, while colour swatches and checked shirts are pieced together into fresh silhouettes and mineral tie-dye treatments revamp the fabrics.  “For me, to use waste is one of the most beautiful things that you can do,” Rosso tells Eco-Age. “If you can create something and give a second life to a product that is destined for landfill, it’s better to stop and think about doing it. So we did, and the upcycling collection was born.”

“We don’t use any new raw materials, and that is a key feature of upcycling,” he continues, explaining how they were able to see the beauty in the colour and textures of old samples and materials that would have otherwise gone to waste. “We don’t go to the supplier, but instead we go to the warehouse where the yarns and fabrics were already produced years ago, to scout out materials that we can bring back to life.”

The DIESEL UPCYCLING FOR series debuted in Milan with a live performance in the city’s flagship store, with seamstresses making pieces of the limited-edition collection in front of an audience of fashion’s elite. Each item in the collection has a unique QR code, allowing the prospective buyers to learn more about the process of how the garment has been reborn. “The fact that you can use modern technology to testimony your past is amazing,” commented Rosso. “We filmed and photographed the whole process of producing each garment, so when the QR code is scanned, it shows those photos of every step. The fact that we have a tool today that can tell you how the clothes you are wearing have been made is indicative of their value. For us this is a very important step.”

The launch marks the first major initiative aligned with Diesel’s new sustainability strategy, developed with Eco-Age to help the brand adapt to a changing world. “It forms part of the key pillars of For Responsible Living, and I think this willingness to be better is very inherent to the brand,” Rosso adds. “Be the Alternative is one of our pillars, and so we found this way to not waste our prototypes and samples anymore. I think that this kind of creative thinking educates people about how to purchase garments, and if this in turn gives us the motivation to create fabrics that don’t pollute or have lower carbon emissions then that is a very big step.”

Diesel is also working on reducing water consumption across the company, as well as the chemicals used across the dyeing process. Even beyond the production line, Rosso expresses an awareness of the brand’s responsibility to begin educating others in the industry, as well as consumers, on the environmental impact of fashion as a whole. “This message is important in the industry because we need to educate the consumer,” he expresses. “I think that this is the responsibility of international companies; the fact that we can answer their questions and show the process sets a precedent for us to be much better in the future.”

“We are already working with Eco-Age to inform the people within Diesel in the best way possible. We are focusing on creating a vocabulary to convey the importance of becoming more sustainable and responsible. Even if we are 700 people here, if all 700 people are educated and use the right vocabulary, when those people go home they can affect maybe ten times that amount among their family and friends. It ends up being a lot of people, and that can really make a difference.”