Ah… Milan. If you want to submerge yourself in culture and the latest fashion and design, there is no place like Milan. The cathedral at the Piazza del Duomo, the attractive squares, renaissance buildings and last but certainly not least, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele.

Meeting Diesel in Milan - CoolBrands Around the World in 80 Brands
Meeting Diesel in Milan – CoolBrands Around the World in 80 Brands

I stroll slowly through the wide corridor of the Galleria, looking at the latest fashion creations in the boutiques. After a while I decide to stop for an espresso in Zucca’s bar, an Art Nouveau classic. “Un espresso per favore,” I say in my best Italian.

A sharply dressed local, who’s also having an espresso, tries a new opening line on me. “This gallery has a structure formed by two glass-vaulted arcades,” he says, “intersecting in an octagon covering the street that connects Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Scala.”

“Interesting,” I say. “Thank you for the information.”

The man smiles and continues his ‘history approach’. “Actually, this Galleria was an important step in the evolution of the modern shopping mall, of which it was the direct predecessor. You could say that this is the mother of all shopping malls as we know them today,” he says. With a charming smile he adds: “Let me pay for your coffee.”

“Well thanks again,” I say, “but I have a meeting to attend. Next time I will buy you a coffee, though.” I drape my bag over my shoulder and leave the coffee shop, waving goodbye to my new friend and ignoring his ‘when is next time?’. I cross the central part of the Galleria and walk towards the Piazza della Scala.

My meeting is in the Diesel flagship store, the largest Diesel store in the world. Three days ago I received an email from Christina Käßhöfer, the Marketing Director for Diesel in Germany, one of its main markets in Europe. “I’m following your trip Around the World in 80 Brands on Facebook,” she wrote. “Can we meet in Milan? It will give you the best possible Diesel experience.”

I enter the Diesel store and am welcomed by a cool-looking shop attendant. “Please have a look around,” she says. “And if you need any assistance…” Before she can finish her sentence I see Christina beckoning me to come over. I have known her for some years already and she keeps me up to date whenever something new happens in Diesel country.

“For me, coming to Milan is always a sort of pilgrimage,” Christina says with a smile. “Renzo Rosso started here from scratch in the seventies. Our founder spent countless nights brushing jeans to make them look and feel worn. After all, everyone knows that the jeans you like best are the ones you’ve been wearing for years.”

We walk further into the store and Christina takes a rough-looking pair of jeans from a rack and shows them to me. “Although we now all love vintage clothing, Rosso’s idea was quite revolutionary back then,” she says. “He decided that raw materials, workmanship and the unbeatable combination of comfort and style was exactly what the world needed. It was time for authenticity’s comeback. Not everyone got on board immediately though.”

We walk up the stairs, entering the men’s department. “It looks as if Diesel is selecting its people on good looks,” I say. “They all look amazing, ready for a Vogue photo shoot.”

Christina smiles before continuing her story. “Diesel took the Italian jeans market by storm, giving Rosso the confidence to venture abroad. The brand hit the shelves in Germany in 1994, leaving an indelible mark on the industry and public alike. It’s what Diesel does best: make a lasting impression that not only creates brand awareness, but also triggers curiosity and builds demand. Constantly.

“But it doesn’t happen without effort,” Christina explains: “Reaching the press and the retail industry is easy. They know what we stand for, and understand the concept. But reaching the end consumers, touching them in their hearts, is more difficult. After all, people want long-lasting and authentic brands. As it turns out, Diesel is exactly that. We want to fit into a lifestyle in which people cannot do without Diesel.”

“Just like Converse,” I say, “Even if you don’t really need another pair of sneakers, you still go out and buy a new pair of Chuck Taylors.”

“Exactly,“ Christina says. “And so Diesel is going to further cultivate its designated renegade status until the brand’s whole line of casual fashion becomes the go-to statement for a generation.”

© 2012 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands

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