Renzo Rosso, founder of Diesel, tells The Blank Sheet Project "being stupid" fuels his success

Arjowiggins Creative Papers presents international creative ambassadors in conversation with The Blank Sheet Project

Combined Locks, Wis. (July 2012)—With a passion for fashion, The Blank Sheet Project presents Diesel founder and chairman, Renzo Rosso. D&AD's Tim O'Kennedy interviews Rosso for the third in a series of international super-creative features on Arjowiggins Creative Papers' inspiration platform

A video link to the interview can be found here.

Rosso describes building one of the world's most successful fashion empires on the mantra "be stupid" and how it serves as a fundamental philosophy of the Diesel brand and its irreverent and spirited advertising. "When you did things before others," he explains, 'they think you are stupid… Smart people think how things are today, but stupid people are those who think how things could be."

Rosso believes he is in good company, referring to Gandhi and Mandela as people who were, at one time, also considered out of kilter with the mainstream. He relates how the American's thought he was "stupid" to launch a pair of jeans in the States for $100 when most were priced at $52 a pair. He elaborates to say that one must be brave, visionary, "an interpreter and a pioneer."

The interview reveals a man who is, without doubt, single-minded; a self-confessed workaholic, yet, surprisingly, a firm believer in collaboration and communal effort. In Rosso's words: "You have to work in a team. Me, alone, can be nothing… the team is very important."

This respect for everyone, which comes, he says, from his family and his father, a hard-working and principled farmer, is the driving force behind his Only The Brave Foundation, a charity involved extensively in development work in Africa. The organization currently is building a village for 20,000 people in Mali, with a modern infrastructure, including water, electricity, and Internet; houses; a clinic; a secondary school complex for 600, complete with laboratories and a sports field; and, logically, fledgling businesses to ensure that his legacy is sustainable. This is just one of more than a 100 major projects Rosso's foundation has in the region.

Rosso sits comfortably with other passionate leaders on The Blank Sheet Project, like Sir John Hegarty and Neville Brody, who hope to inspire the next generation to be pioneers. He clearly delights in energetic young people, particularly the "social interpreters," who contribute brilliantly refreshing ideas to Only The Brave Foundation's valuable work.

The goal of The Blank Sheet Project is to encourage individuals and businesses to be more innovative, thoughtful and sustainable. It asks creative professionals, given a blank sheet of paper "How will you leave your mark?" This inspirational inquiry now challenges a global audience. It is something that Rosso has thought carefully about. He says he hopes that "the day I die, people will say, 'This was a good man.'"

Jonathan Mitchell, managing director of Arjowiggins Creative Papers says, "To effect change invariably means stepping out of your comfort zone, being willing to try, to fail and try again, learning by your mistakes. Renzo Rosso's philosophy—his approach to business and to life— makes him an ideal ambassador for The Blank Sheet Project and an incredibly inspirational thought leader for creatives everywhere."

Appleton Coated amplifies The Blank Sheet Project's message as the exclusive North American distributor for The Curious Collection of fine papers and Conqueror premium identity paper brand, both manufactured by Arjowiggins. Learn more about Appleton Coated's innovative, sustainable and creative programs and products at

About Renzo Rosso

Rosso landed in fashion by pure coincidence, having been told that a certain professional school in the nearest city was the "least study-intensive around." At 15, commandeering his mother's sewing machine, he created a pair of extravagantly flared pants. He wore them, his friends wanted them too, and a clothing pioneer was born. In 1975, after graduating from the textile manufacturing college, Rosso began working in the industry and in 1978 joined the Genius Group. From there sprang a number of brands, including Katherine Hamnett, Replay and, of course, Diesel. In 1985, Rosso took full control of the Diesel brand, surrounding himself with like-minded designers and creative people focused on creating alternative clothing for free spirits around the world. Driven by its unique brand image and startling marketing, Diesel is today one of the world's most iconic fashion and lifestyle brands. Diesel is now part of OTB (Only the Brave) Group.

About Only The Brave Foundation

In 2008, Renzo Rosso embarked on his latest and most ambitious project: the Only The Brave Foundation, a not-for-profit organization with the mission to mobilize people all over the world to end extreme poverty. It researches and invests in a wide range of innovative and sustainable projects providing solutions to some of the world's most challenging problems. For his engagement and contribution, Rosso has been named Millennium Promise MDG Global Leader, the first Italian personality to receive this recognition, committing to raising awareness of this fight amongst political and business leaders worldwide, and encouraging them to join the movement.

About The Blank Sheet Project

The Blank Sheet Project was conceived as an internal innovation program in 2010. The management of Arjowiggins Creative Papers asked themselves and their staff: "If we started again; if we had a blank sheet of paper; if we put sustainability at the very top of the agenda; what would we do? How could we do things differently?" From more than 2,000 responses generated within the company, Arjowiggins Creative Papers now has 40 teams developing ambitious sustainability projects to reflect its concern for people, prosperity and the planet. The company's 'up-cycled' reKreate paper, which re-uses fiber waste and contributes to a zero sludge mill, is just one of the many outcomes. From its introduction in 2010, The Blank Sheet Project has gone on to address and inspire a global audience of young minds. To promote its message, Arjowiggins Creative Papers currently is collaborating with two eminent organizations: D&AD, the United Kingdom's leading body for the creative industries, and One Young World, an international initiative that brings together the leaders of today with the young leaders of tomorrow.

About Arjowiggins Creative Papers

Arjowiggins Creative Papers has 1,300 employees and its products are distributed in 82 countries. Products in the Arjowiggins Creative Papers portfolio continually achieve best-in-category for paper capability and print performance and are available globally. Each range offers a high-quality finish for a wide variety of applications. All of Arjowiggins Creative Papers' brands have been FSC® certified since June 2008, and the company is constantly expanding its recycled paper ranges. Arjowiggins Creative Papers has an unwavering commitment to working alongside customers and suppliers to continue to innovate through their range of inspiring papers and in the way they do business. This is supported by The Blank Sheet Project, its inspirational platform that challenges all to think creatively about how to leave a mark in a way that is socially, economically and environmentally responsible.

About Appleton Coated

Appleton Coated offers the most comprehensive line-up of premium, coated papers available today marketed under the Utopia brand. From the elegance of Premium to hardworking Utopia Three, the Utopia family of coated papers offers six ways to ignite a passion for paper and the environment. The Curious Collection of fine papers and Conqueror premium paper brand are manufactured by Arjowiggins, headquartered in Paris, France, and distributed exclusively in North America by Appleton Coated. Since 1889, Appleton Coated has manufactured paper in Combined Locks, Wisconsin.

1 Like
Recent Stories

MindFire Announces Release of "Lead Gen Machine" for Printers and Marketing Service Providers

MindFire Celebrates a Decade of Making Printers and Print Service Providers Successful