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Diesel knows that you shouldn't have to sacrifice style just because you want comfort, durability and warmth. Diesel blends streetwise styles and craftsmanship resulting in functional basics that are as hip as they are comfortable. While infamous for their denim fashions, Diesel also has a full line of clothing which includes sweaters that would never be neighbors with the clothes in Mr. Rogers' closet.

This 24-year-old Italian design house has broken just about every rule in the luxury-goods handbook, but it has succeeded wildly. Powered by the brand's iconic status and an aggressive retail expansion, Diesel's sales have been growing at double-digit rates, led by the U.S. The company estimates last year’s revenues at more than $600 million. The privately held retailer inaugurated 41 new stores in 2002, from Miami to Berlin, bringing its world total to 203. An additional 30 are set to open this year. Based in Molvena, a country town in Northern Italy, Diesel spends a modest $40 million a year on marketing. This fashion house is intent on hypnotizing all twenty-somethings with into an eternal diesel desired trance.

The man behind the Diesel fashion phenomenon is Renzo Rosso. Not long after graduating from a textile manufacturing school in Padua in 1975, Rosso teamed up with local manufacturers to form the Genius Group, responsible for several successful brands including Replay and Diesel. In 1985, Rosso bought out the Diesel name and went solo, forging the worn-denim look that was not ultra-fashionable 15 years ago but is ubiquitous today. "I do much on instinct," says Rosso, a snowboarder and yoga practitioner who devours upwards of 150 magazines a month to keep his cool quotient up.

Like its founder, Diesel operates outside the mainstream. It has thrived by skirting mass-market media channels, relying instead on more targeted mediums, such as arty advertising catalogues and MTV. Meanwhile, Diesel is creating new lines that can help spur growth without diluting the brand. There's Diesel Kids, a children's collection built on bright colors and modern lines, and 55DSL, a youth brand pitched at skaters and snowboarders. Another line, DieselStyleLab, focuses on experimental designs, using cutting-edge fabrics. Musing on Diesel's future, Rosso says: "We could explode our sales volume easily. But I don't want to inflate sales. Diesel is now a luxury brand." For Rosso, who has prospered by thumbing his nose at the fashion industry, Diesel's success is a bit, well, uncomfortable--like a stiff pair of brand-new jeans.

Ms. Keys, Eve, Free and Diddy are all hooked. Get yours at www.diesel.com.

 



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