The fabulous life of Renzo Rosso, the ‘crazy’ billionaire founder of one of the most iconic denim brands in the world

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Martin Schoeller/Courtesy of Diesel

Diesel founder Renzo Rosso has built a clothing empire.

The “hard-partying, trash-talking billionaire bad boy,” as W Magazine called him, went from son of a northern Italian farmer to amassing a small fortune. He refers to himself as “crazy” for his outsized creativity and vision, according to Women’s Wear Daily.

He first appeared on the Forbes billionaires list in 2012, and he currently has a net worth of roughly $3.4 billion, which he acquired through provocative advertising, savvy retail acumen, and smart business sense.

Though he’s since relinquished the reigns of the company he created, the 60-year-old still serves as president of its holding company, OTB (which stands for Only The Brave, a company motto), and it doesn’t seem like he’ll slow down any time soon.

Rosso sat down with Business Insider to give us a small peek into what his fabulous life is really like.


Rosso was born in 1955 in the tiny northern Italian town of Brugine, the son of a farmer.

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RR Prima Comunione.
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Courtesy of Diesel

According to an anecdote he recounted to W Magazine, he was once given rice pudding by a group of American soldiers from a nearby army base. “That, for me, was the American Dream,” he said.

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RR Venezia 1967.
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Courtesy of Diesel

Source: W Magazine


With that drive, he made his first pair of jeans. It was the ’70s, and they had a 42-centimeter leg opening. “My friends were so much in love with these jeans, that they started [asking for them],” Rosso told us.

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Courtesy of Diesel

That first pair spurred him to buy a 40% stake in the company he worked for, Moltex, with money he borrowed from his father in 1978. This company then became Diesel.


By 1985, Rosso had bought out his business partner, jeans legend Adriano Goldschmied. With full control of the company, Rosso launched the idea of high-quality, luxury-premium denim that looked distressed and worn, which gained massive popularity in the ’80s and ’90s.

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Courtesy of Diesel

“Denim for me was like how to be a rebel,” Rosso said. “I wear denim every single day of my life.”


Diesel is known for its provocative advertising, which offers irreverent takes on global issues. In 1995, Diesel notably ran one of the first gay-themed advertisements: A photo shot by David LaChapelle showing two men dressed as sailors, kissing.

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Diesel

In 2011, Rosso said in a Facebook post, “16 years ago people wouldn’t stop complaining about this ad. Now it’s finally accepted legally.”

Source: Facebook


Diesel has recently attempted to earn back some of the cultural cachet it held in the past. In 2013, it hired its first creative director, Nicola Formichetti, who gained a reputation as pop star Lady Gaga’s stylist.

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Courtesy of Diesel

The brand relaunched their Madison Avenue store in New York City last year with a large party in a rented-out mansion on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Joe Jonas and his band played a concert.


In 2002, Rosso took a step back to run the new holding company, OTB Group, unifying all the brands he created with the ones he acquired, like French fashion brand Maison Margiela in 2002, the Italian brand Marni in 2012, and the Amsterdam-based Viktor & Rolf in 2008.

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Courtesy of Diesel

Rosso built a glittering new headquarters in Breganze, Italy, in the countryside north of Venice. The OTB Group building is enormous, with a cafeteria and full gym for employees.

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Facebook/OTBGroup

Rosso owns a home in the northern Italian village of Bassano del Grappa, about a 30-minute drive from Venice. It’s home to 50,000 residents, whom Rosso has provided with free town-wide Wi-Fi named after the company he started.

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Wikimedia Commons/Zyance

He’s also sponsored renewal projects for the medieval-era town to preserve its history.


Rosso owns an 18th-century villa named Ca’ Priuli, which he has decorated in his signature style: Pillows monogrammed with his initials and others with his motto: “Be stupid.” He calls it “the most beautiful house in Bassano.”

http://dgreenempty.tumblr.com/post/139870459716/wmagazine-the-jeans-business-has-made-diesels

http://dgreenempty.tumblr.com/post/139870459716/wmagazine-the-jeans-business-has-made-diesels


“Stupid people see things how they can be, not how they are,” Renzo told us, noting that these are the people whom he prefers to work with, and whom he hires to work in and run his companies. He wrote a book titled “Be Stupid: For Successful Living” describing his philosophy, which was published by Rizzoli in 2011.

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Amazon.com

Rosso is an avid art collector and has purchased paintings by Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Italian artist Francesco Bartoli. He often loans them out to museums.

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Facebook/Renzo55

Since his home is so close to Venice, Rosso spends a lot of time there.

Out and about at the Venice’s Carnival….always a lot of fun #venice

A post shared by Renzo Rosso (@renzorosso) on

Source: Vogue UK


In 2012, he pledged 5.5 million euros (roughly $6 million) to repair the historic Rialto Bridge, one of four bridges over Venice’s Grand Canal.

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Facebook/OTBGroup

Source: Reuters


Rosso can often be seen hobnobbing with fashion’s elite, and he’s a regular fixture on the scene. Here, Rosso is posing with longtime friend Adrien Brody at a recent Diesel party in New York.

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Courtesy of Diesel

He’s also often photographed with Kanye West, who has praised Rosso’s work with Maison Margiela, the French fashion house Rosso purchased in 2002.

Always good to have my friend Kanye at the @maisonmargiela show #PFW ????

A post shared by Renzo Rosso (@renzorosso) on


As for toys, Rosso owns an Aston Martin DB9. He carefully considered buying it for seven years, as he was concerned it would be too flashy of a purchase. The car retails for about $200,000.

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Facebook/Aston Martin

On the less flashy side, a Cadillac Escalade and a Mercedes-Benz S-Class also have spots in his motor pool. For the Mercedes, Rosso has taken the model signifiers off and painted the three-pointed star black. “I prefer to drive a simple car,” he said.

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Daimler AG

Rosso flies around on a private jet provided by his company, which he said “saves his life” given his hectic schedule and numerous public appearances.

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Shutterstock

His favorite place to vacation is the Greek islands, where he says there are fewer paparazzi and distractions.

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iStock / Freeartist

When he’s not working, Rosso likes snowboarding, surfing, and wake-boarding.

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Shutterstock

My new wake surf…

A post shared by Renzo Rosso (@renzorosso) on


He also loves soccer, and owns his hometown team, Bassano Virtus 55 S.T. Rosso added his birth year, ’55, to the end of the club’s name when he took it over in 1996.

A photo posted by Renzo Rosso (@renzorosso) on Apr 21, 2012 at 8:59am PDT


He’s also an avid cyclist, and often posts Instagram pictures of himself in full cycling gear after cresting some impressive hill.

Valstagna with Lap’s

A post shared by Renzo Rosso (@renzorosso) on


Rosso also owns a winery, which sources grapes from a tract of land he bought in 1994, named Diesel Farm. It offers wines that are a play on his family name, like “Rosso di Rosso.” Rosso calls it a boutique distributor, and only offers its wine to select restaurants around the world.

Lunch at the #DieselFarm today.. Fall colours are my fav… fantastic!

A post shared by Renzo Rosso (@renzorosso) on


Rosso also runs a charitable foundation through OTB, called the OTB Foundation. It has invested 12 million euros directed to “fight social inequality and [contributing] to the sustainable development of less advantaged areas and people throughout the world.” Some 90% of the foundation’s efforts are focused on sub-Saharan Africa, with the remaining 10% centered on Italy.