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We talk w/ Andrea Rosso, DIESEL Sustainability Ambassador

Son of Renzo Rosso, founder of Diesel, he embarks on a new adventure with the aim of continuing to offer a circular and sustainable fashion industry.

We talk w/ Andrea Rosso, DIESEL Sustainability Ambassador

On the Italian firm’s ‘Behind The Denim’ programme and the importance of introducing sustainable and circular processes in the fashion industry.

After launching his own clothing brand Myar in 2015 and having been at the creative helm of Diesel‘s 55DSL line for no less than eighteen years, Andrea Rosso is now immersed in a new mission that aims to implement lower impact practices throughout the supply chain, from the choice of fabrics to the dedication to a key focus on treatments and the search for alternative solutions that address the entire life cycle of the garment.

HIGHXTAR (H) – Many brands today are working towards a more sustainable and environmentally responsible industry. What really makes the difference?

ANDREA ROSSO (AR) – Being straight forward, what makes the big difference is the company’s mindset that can drive faster responsible approaches in all fields of the business. It is really challenging to find solutions that may be considered truly sustainable, but certainly it is possible to search for more responsible alternatives, not only regarding products but also regarding different business models, as well as keep working on innovative technologies.

The first step in identifying less impactful solutions is analyzing the whole life cycle of a product, starting from how it is designed and assembled (the choice of materials, treatments, prints and applications, etc.) but also looking at how we can extend its usage and promote alternative end-of-life solutions.

At Diesel, keeping this in mind, we are approaching the concept of a “more responsible industry and supply chains” in different ways. 

First, by “lowering the impact” of our products by selecting preferential fibers and fabrics, such as those made with organic, recycled, regenerative cotton or other lower impact materials, but also supporting the adoption of more responsible treatments and washes, such as alternative pumice stone, ozone, laser or nebulization, aimed at reducing the use of water and chemicals. Finally, we also implemented “lower-impact” options even for the smallest details that go into products, such as trims and accessories.

Second, by trying to promote “circularity” both through supply-chain pilot projects that incentivize the recycling of Diesel denim cutting scraps, which are then re-integrated into our new collection fabrics, and the adoption of new circular business models such as “Diesel Second Hand” pilot project which aims at extending the life of Diesel denim garments.

(H) – You have been working in a circular fashion system for many years. You started with your own brand MYAR and now you continue as Sustainability Ambassador at Diesel. How has your evolution been in all this time?

(AR) – Starting with a small, passionate, true reality like MYAR helped me to go deeper implementing ideas, mindset, technologies, and innovations that could also apply to a big brand like Diesel.

It has been an amazing and a continuous journey evolution that still allows me to consistently learn and communicate the many steps that are needed to make a business more circular and responsible. With MYAR’s the goal is to give a second life to what has been left behind: military used garments, fabric deadstock and trimmings. At the same time, the role of Diesel’s Sustainability Ambassador means not only being the brand spokesperson, who is in charge of communicating all efforts that we are putting in becoming more responsible, but also building connections both externally, with partnerships and continuous dialogue, and internally, by creating a common vocabulary on sustainability and a shared culture amongst all internal employees.

To me the mindset of a company should be like a full natural organism, such as plants, with their beautiful flowers, fruits and leaves…but also with the health and curation of its roots; in order to create a solid ecosystem.

(H) – Do you consider that consumers are also responsible when purchasing a garment?

(AR) – Definitively! Consumers should also be held responsible for their purchasing choices. The responsibility in purchasing is the first step for an educated consumer.

Making less impactful choices is certainly a common responsibility, both for brands and customers, and for any other stakeholder involved in the value chain of a product.

Sustainability is now more than ever an aspect that people are starting to consider when purchasing a garment, but this applies to all goods.

As Diesel, we are working on different initiatives that range from our Diesel Second Hand to adopting upcycling strategies for dedicated projects, as well as working with suppliers to promote circular projects within the value chain, such as the Diesel Rehab Denim line

realized in partnership with Tejidos Royo, one of our Spanish fabric suppliers, as well as the project we launched in collaboration with the United Nations International Development Organization (UNIDO) and one of our suppliers in Tunisia, both aimed at repurposing denim cutting scraps into new fabric.

Moreover, we want to give to our public the chance to make their own choices by being correctly informed on the responsible characteristics of the garment, even when purchasing something new. In this sense, we disclose all the “lower-impact attributes” of a specific product both in our website and on a dedicated journey which is accessible through a QR CODE label applied on every article. A transparent and fact-based sustainability communication has become a “guiding principle” for the brand and it leaves to the consumer the possibility to make an aware decision.

(H) – What is the most complex part of committing to a sustainable system?

(AR) – A big challenge is certainly presented by legislations, which are continuously evolving but still not comprehensive. Once regulations will be correctly implemented it will probably be easier to make sustainable practices the new normality.

Another big challenges is to create such a system is availability and scalability of innovative materials and techniques which can guarantee the same performance of conventional fabrics and treatments.

In this sense, we always need to start with pilot projects and only after having assessed the results, we are able to include the new solutions into our collections. At Diesel we’re using in-depth screening to understand what we can improve: water usage, energy consumption and chemistry, and we are working on finding solutions to lower our impacts.

Another important part on our journey is involving our suppliers, and, on this, our teams have worked tirelessly to push the boundaries and get them on board with our commitment to create better products while reducing our impact and scouting innovative solutions available in the market that could work for the brand.

(H) – Do you think a 100% sustainable product will ever be achieved?

(AR) – I hope so, but we are aware that it takes time, and it is not a result that brands can achieve immediately due to different aspects and issues. Sustainability is a journey, and to us it also looks like a never-ending one. Once a result is achieved, we set an even more demanding target or goal and start working towards it.

There is no perfect solution, but we are continuously reviewing and updating our approach based on emerging evidence. However, there may be ways to balance with offsetting, or invest on I+D innovations to get closer to that 100%.

(H) – Do you think that a small brand, with fewer resources, can be as sustainable as a brand that is already consolidated in the sector?

(AR) – An ant moves faster and can take different decisions, but the effect is small compared to an elephant that takes slow time to move, but once it has moved, you’ll see it from far away.

It is a challenge for both big and small brands, with some common and different obstacles along the way. As Diesel, some changes may be more challenging to achieve than for a smaller brand, due to the fact that we are a very complex organization with many years of history behind. However, we are lucky because our teams are always excited and willing to experiment a lot of new ideas, while trying to involve and engage our suppliers or other partners. the cooperation between brands and each supply chain member is fundamental to reach effective and major results.

The journey is a long-term one and the commitment must be real, it is not easy to achieve this result, but I believe that even a small brand can do it with the right processes, materials and partners, starting from the little steps.

(H) – How important do you think sustainability education and social awareness from an early age is today?

(AR) – Education underlies everything, children should be educated in sustainability from an early age at school. Companies today have a huge responsibility in terms of communication, and we need to know how to spread in the best way possible what our brand has to offer in this perspective.

The educational aspect and social awareness should include adults as well, for instance we just launched our “Diesel: Behind the Denim” documentary, a five-part mini docuseries devoted to Diesel’s commitment to creating lower-impact denim. Each of the series’ five episodes is available on Diesel’s website and YouTube page and each video is dedicated to a pillar of the brand’s denim practice — All Aboard, Lifetime jeans, Clean Dirty, Sow the Seed and Waste to Treasure One.

El aspecto educativo y la concienciación social deben incluir también a los adultos; por ejemplo, acabamos de lanzar nuestro documental ‘Diesel: Behind the Denim’, una minidocuserie de cinco capítulos dedicada al compromiso de Diesel con la creación de vaqueros de menor impacto. Cada uno de los cinco episodios de la serie está disponible en el sitio web de Diesel y en su página de YouTube, y cada vídeo está dedicado a un pilar de la práctica denim de la marca: All Aboard, Lifetime jeans, Clean Dirty, Sow the Seed y Waste to Treasure One.

In this way we want to let our community know how the brand is evolving and the steps it is taking in terms of sustainability, keeping Diesel’s typical wit and an unfiltered attitude as tone of voice.

(H) – Are you still training today?

(AR) – Yes! It is essential to stay up to date with all the news in terms of sustainability. In this sector you never stop learning since things are evolving very quickly, especially in terms of legislation and since, luckily, much more attention is given to the subject today.

This educational process involves our employees as well. In fact, one of the most relevant aspect that enabled us to get where we are today in terms of sustainability, is the collaboration and constant work and research that has been done internally among the different teams (to mention some of them: I+D, style, and production departments) to define common criteria and setting internal guidelines that helped us all determine what we mean by a “lower-impact product” for Diesel

Furthermore, we started working with our store managers by conducting internal trainings to make them aware of the responsible characteristics of the products we sell and correctly communicate our ‘For Responsible Living’ approach to all our customers, thus showing the more intrinsic value of our collections. Our onboarding trainings are also an essential part of our strategy.

As I said we could be compared to a tree with roots and fruits, and our internal people are the essential part that connect these two worlds: the internal one, in contact with our consumers, and the external one, represented by our external stakeholders. Constant training and circular mindset are the nutrients for the most flourishing tree.

(H) – What is the main objective of ‘For Responsible Living’?

(AR) – For me ‘For Responsible Living’ is a mindset that should be embraced by any person that crosses paths with the brand, starting from our employees, our suppliers but also all our clients. Our sustainability strategy is fully explained on our website to make it accessible to everyone. It is based on four pillars (“Be the alternative”, “Celebrate individuality”, “Stand for the planet” and “Promote integrity”).

The main objective of the strategy is to become perfectly aligned and integrated with all the business decisions that are taken every day by the different departments. We believe that nowadays Diesel ‘For Successful Living’ also needs to translate into Diesel ‘For Responsible Living’.

(H) – What impact would you like to have on the designers of the future and/or the next generations?

(AR) – I hope that there will be no need to talk about sustainability anymore and that this will become a norm and not an exception. But in the meantime…I hope that the next generation can become more and more active in sustainability, and I believe that education can increasingly help changing people’s mindset in this regard.

The impact that I would like Diesel to make is the inspiration to create something alternative, unique and innovative while integrating a more responsible mindset and not losing Diesel’s DNA.

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