A COLLABORATION THAT STARTED WITH A LOVE LETTER
Renzo Rosso in conversation with Gosha Rubchinskiy
There were bubbly drinks in a Berlin-Mitte backyard, humid-hot weather and electronic beats with a rough-russian vibe to it. An atmosphere that perfectly set the stage for the global launch of DIESEL RED TAG x GR-UNIFORMA, an event happening as part of REFERENCE BERLIN – a 24 hour festival for creativity in the infinite present.
The 70-piece collection of Gosha Rubchinskiy for the Italian Denim Super-Brand DIESEL was ready to go live on May 18th. The pieces shown strike with interesting colours and gradings, handing a playful twist to the toned down unisex cuts.
INTERVIEW went behind the scenes, met the designer himself who sat down with the eminent authority that is Renzo Rosso, the founder of DIESEL and talked about the collaboration, denim in the former Soviet Union and much more:
GOSHA RUBCHINSKIY Renzo, it is great to see you again in Berlin.
RENZO ROSSO Yes! You must know Gosha, I love Germany in general. It was the first country where I succeeded. Also I am Italian – Italians talk a lot but they are not very concrete. Germans on the other hand are very tangible. Berlin is very close to the mentality of DIESEL, there is a lot of creative stuff happening here – we even did a collaboration with a Döner shop not too long ago. That was fun!
GR Also I still have to laugh when I think about the love letter you sent me about a year ago.
RR Haha, I mean I followed you and your work for the last couple of years. There was a lot of buzz and I was thinking that you should be part of my group. So I just wrote you a letter and said that I love you so much and if you are interested in working with me.
GR I was only waiting for that letter of course, haha.
RR So glad it reached you in time! What I like about the modern world is, that I don’t have to go through a lot of systems in order to get in touch with someone. I just go – swoosh – and reach you. Especially our industry is very slow sometimes. Having to wait on the line – I am not that kind of person. In the year of 2019 we don’t have to do that.
GR yes! Exactly. It gives you a lot of freedom. You just reach out and you can talk immediately. That’s the magic of the internet. It’s connection. What was also magic for me back in the early 90’s was going to the DIESEL store next to the red square in Moscow. I couldn’t afford anything of course but I went there regularly anyways to just feel the energy and the story of it. DIESEL is not only about clothing and denim. It’s about lifestyle and I remember all the bright images and advertising.
RR At that time the city of Moscow was very different. Nowadays it’s just wow! Incredible! Back in the days, it was in the process of becoming more open. What exactly did you feel there?
GR The DIESEL store gave me a glimpse into what was going to come. I am a very sensitive person and I just wanted to know what was going on there, wanted to soak it all up. New visuals, new collections – I was very inspired. I guess I always wanted to do something with DIESEL, I was just waiting for the right moment, haha
RR I sensed that so I invited you and asked you to come. We have this amazing archive with more than one hundred thousand pieces. It is unbelievable – when people see it, they recognize what the brand is about.
GR Yes, I loved it so much. I spent 4 hours there the first time I visited. There are incredible vintage pieces!
RR We went to the archive and it worked out, we had a good and friendly connection. It was important for me to meet each other, because if I wouldn’t have liked you, we wouldn’t have worked together. Also what I love is, being in love with the person I collaborate with. It’s not just about mixing business with business. We don’t just talk about money, visibility – No!
GR I don’t like stupid collaborations without any context. There needs to be a story behind it. That’s why I liked it, when you explained the context of DIESEL RED TAG. To focus on a different designer every year and to give someone the personal freedom to create. That was right when I changed my own brand to focus on different projects. You were one of the first ones I presented the concept to. Denim in general means a lot to me.
RR Tell me!
GR It is about freedom and belonging at the same time. 20 years ago, in the Soviet Union it was illegal to wear denim. It could have brought you to jail – showing off Western culture was impossible during that time. You needed to be brave, you needed to be punk! It was anti-system and only special people were able to pull it off, like rock singers or famous people. KGB would follow them or imprison them. I grew up surrounded by this feeling and denim gave me the opportunity to free myself from the establishment. Where did you grow up Renzo?
RR I was born and raised on a farm in Italy. My parents trained me in dignity and told me to be very present in social life. This is the reason why I surround myself with a lot of creative people now. I think they are better than everyone else in the world – they know stuff before others do, they are unique. Like your idea for DIESEL RED TAG…
GR When I started to work on the idea for the DIESEL RED TAG x GR-UNIFORMA collaboration I didn’t only want to do a fashion project. I wanted to expand it to music. We created a band and videos – further down the line I thought about the idea of a musical theatre of the present. The opera was a big topic as well because it is a place where different art forms are mixed together. There is dance, music, play, architecture, fashion and more. We thought of a soundtrack, a libretto and the costumes that came out of this are what we are now presenting in Berlin.
RR Yes, it suited so well with RED TAG. I really liked your approach. Creativity, that’s you! DIESEL is not only denim, it is military, it is rock. When I saw the prototype I was even more happy. I didn’t make adjustments at all, I didn’t touch what you created. It would have been contaminated. It’s part of my mentality to trust you. I am the founder of DIESEL not the designer, okay? All the others have to be free but not me.
GR I wanted to do something new. I asked myself what a contemporary opera could look like and what’s the uniform to to go with it, made out of denim. It can be basic in shape but interesting in detail. We tried many different techniques for dying. I was thankful for the great denim treatment team that showed me the ropes.
RR Especially the grading I liked a lot.
GR Yes, I was inspired by a painting of El Lissitzky. I wanted make denim in accordance with Russian avant-garde paintings. We did a lot of tests and learned how the fabric reacted – it was an exciting process. Also I want to keep experimenting, generally speaking. I usually don’t like to talk about the future – I think it is hard to grasp something that is still in the ether. I like to make stuff. How is your approach concerning this? What do you have in stall for DIESEL Renzo?
RR Regarding DIESEL, I must say, these past weeks I have been very happy. I was out of the company for the last ten years to build up the group as a whole but I have been back for a while now. I think DIESEL in the meantime lost it’s cool but we are slowly bringing it back. Re-starting again, changing up some things! So I brought back a lot of modernity. I told you that I am very happy because I saw the numbers, they are very positive. It is so nice to see that happening when you put in a lot of effort.
GR Being happy makes up for successful living right? When your art and your projects work out…
RR Yes, our slogan aligns well with that. ‚For Successful Living’ is so strong. It’s not meant in an arrogant way. Not like, if you do this then you’ll be successful, but it is playful. It represents my story, my life and it represents the future of the whole group. (Claps his hands and laughs) Okay, can we go now, Gosha?
Diesel Red Tag x GR-Uniforma is exclusively available in the Diesel Pop-Up-Shop Berlin, Torstraße 67 until the 25th of May. From the 26th on, via selected DIESEL shops worldwide and through the website. You can also find it in Dover Street Market Stores and Comme des Garçons Shops.
Words JULIA DEUTSCH