In one of Berlin’s favorite event spots, the St. Elisabeth church, Diesel introduced its latest watch creation last week: Alrite. The model availability is limited to 555 pieces and it’s the brainchild of a collaboration between the Italian denim brand and Brooklyn-based Romon Kimin Yang (aka Rostarr), who created a 150 square-meters piece of art for it featuring its iconic calligraphic drawings that were then cut into pieces and hand-wrapped into the watches’ leather straps. So each product is a one-of-a-kind denimhead collectors' piece.

The 4D mapping installation onto the façade of Elisabethkirche shined a light on the calligraphic print of the Diesel Alrite watch.
© Markus Braumann
The 4D mapping installation onto the façade of Elisabethkirche shined a light on the calligraphic print of the Diesel Alrite watch.


Among the 400 guests, there were young artists and anonymous representatives of Berlin’s local hipster scene, but also digital influencers such as David Kurt Karl Roth of Dandy Diary.

On December 8, three Diesel Alrite watches will be auctioned via Ebay for charity in collaboration with Sotheby’s for 48 hours. The funds gathered will be donated to Only The Brave Foundation, Diesel’s OTB parent company’s no-profit organization fighting social inequality and working on sustainable development worldwide.

Diesel Alrite limited-edition watch.
© Diesel
Diesel Alrite limited-edition watch.


Rostarr is not a stranger to the fashion world, as he has also teamed up with brands like Nike, for which he put his distinctive artworks on running gear earlier this year. “Not every artist is able to work with companies just because they have some sort of phobia of being commercial, but there’re no boundaries for me as an artist,” explains Rostarr. “You can’t put a price on the level of people you’re going to reach by working with brands.” The artist and Andrea Rosso, creative director of Diesel licenses, started working on Alrite nearly one and a half years ago. “We bounced ideas back and forth. He didn’t tell me what to do with my drawing itself,” recalls Rostarr. For instance, the irregular gold-paint splashes that you can spot in the watch strap were an idea of Rosso to add a last shiny touch to the product.

Before heading to St. Elisabeth church last Wednesday, we had a chat with Andrea Rosso to get to know more about the licensing products of the Italian denim brand.

Brooklyn-based artist Rostarr (left) posing with Andrea Rosso during the Alrite launch event in Berlin.
© Markus Braumann
Brooklyn-based artist Rostarr (left) posing with Andrea Rosso during the Alrite launch event in Berlin.


To translate the identity of a primarily clothing brand to perfumes or watches sounds anything but an easy ride. What is the biggest challenge for keeping a unified brand identity across so many different product categories?

What I’ve been learning is that actually I’d have probably done the same if I was mechanics going to apparel. Because from apparel going to a field that talks about wood, metal, plastic, acetate, glass… How do you do that? How can you compare apparel with this? But actually that was the beauty, that the same treatment that you can find in a five-pocket, the same way that we construct the rivets or that we do the rivet finishing, could be done in a watch, in a perfume or a glass. The fading of a metallic foil on a t-shirt can be also realized in a glass. I learned a lot about materials: how metal, wood even how a mirror is constructed. By learning that, you can use the same design approach as if working on apparel, but with different resources. That was the key.

A lot of stuff that we’ve come up with in the past was born out of synergies. We share our space together with the apparel and denim designers and when I go to the print machine I literally have to cross their room. Sometimes, I spot a jacquard fabric and take it because it could be interesting for a couch. So there are a lot of similarities. Today [furniture] design and fashion is becoming one language. It isn’t true that this table [he touches the top of the table in front of him] can be only designed by a famous architect, but actually the finishing here may have been influenced by a fabric designer. Both fields are unifying. A perfume cap can also be good for making a blazer’s buttoning or closet door handles.

The fading of a metallic foil on a t-shirt can be also realized in a glass. I learned a lot about materials: how metal, wood even how a mirror is constructed. By learning that, you can use the same design approach as if working on apparel, but with different resources.

Andrea Rosso


You have probably way more time to work on the licensed products and collections because they don’t change as fast as the apparel ones, I imagine.

It’s true that timing is different. In the past I used to think: ‘why do you have to take one year to create one chair?’ You have so much time; designers have time as well. But I was mistaken, because the chair needs to meet a certain standard; you must try it several times; the materials need to be good; the dedication of the cabinetmaker. But with that time, it becomes perfection. The result pays off at the end.

I guess that you don’t tackle the task alone. How many people are dedicated to the design of licensed products?

For home, there are two employees; three people are dedicated to watches and sunglasses. I take care of perfumes by myself together with our partner, L’Oréal.

What are the special traits of Diesel watches when compared to those of other traditional manufacturers in the same price range? 

Diesel watches are very mechanical, very heavy. Also the dimensions are pretty big. We’re now starting to make smaller dimensions, but keeping the same mechanical elements and industrial-inspired designed. Fossil is a good partner for watches: the functionality is good and they do a lot of testing before approving a product. That is sometimes a problem for us, because we want to launch as soon as possible, but they cannot because they’re still testing. So it’s a long process. But the credibility around these watches is good. The price, compared to the competitors, is in average with the beauty and the design that people get with them.

Romon Kimin Yang (aka Rostarr) working on his calligraphic artwork for Diesel.
© Diesel
Romon Kimin Yang (aka Rostarr) working on his calligraphic artwork for Diesel.


Diesel ad campaigns are known for their boldness, freshness and involving celebrities –e.g. SS16 and the social media craze–. As you’re responsible for the image and worldwide communication of all Diesel licensed products –do licensed products follow a different communication approach than Diesel’s fashion ads?  

I don’t do the advertisement, but work with Nicola [Formichetti] on the advertising part for watches and sunglasses. But the consumer is different, because the amount of money they pay is different, too. Especially what consumers want to see is different than what they expect to observe on a shirt. I have to make sure than whatever is expressed through photography is interesting for the consumer that buys the product while keeping the Diesel aesthetics. We work with close-ups on products and photos must reflect the materials’ properties like shininess. On Instagram, sometimes a watch close-up awakes more interaction among consumers than the face of a celebrity. 

Do you know roughly how important is the licensed products’ business for Diesel in terms of overall brand sales?

I don't know these figures by heart. What I can tell you is that watches are gaining importance: they are among the top 5 product categories for Diesel in terms of sales. The first one is the five-pocket.

Funny, I’d have thought that perfumes were driving more sales than watches.

Perfumes are more successful for many companies. For Diesel, I think we are not too much women-driven. In the perfume business, you have to consider the women’s market. With Diesel, we still have to approach that in the right way. Females are good consumers, but there’s so much product for them out there that you’ve to be much more strategical and careful choosing the right direction for that. So far now, we’re not on this level.

For women, the Living collection is important. All products in the licensing business are more men-driven.

How is it working so closely with your dad and brother and having such high-rank responsibilities within your family’s brainchild, Diesel?

I actually wish I’d work more with them! (laughs). We work on the same floor, but we never see each other. It’s hard to meet my father and my brother, as each of us has his own field to cultivate. My dad’s field is bigger than ours. But every time we coincide, we talk a lot. But I wish it’d happen more often.

I exchange messages with my father about products, rather than showing them in real life. Since social media came on board, he [Renzo Rosso] is more reactive to that rather than having a meeting with me (more laughs). 

Talking about Diesel Living, your homewear collection. Have you thought about creating a massive Diesel concept store where the full fashion and homewear, furniture and lighting collections come together? 

During the next edition of Salone del Mobile in Milan, we’ll be approaching more the hospitality business: hotels, bars, restaurants, rental apartments. We really want to go into this field. It takes a lot of time, plus the credibility that you have as a fashion company is more difficult compared to a design company. But we’re getting a lot of respect and good feedback from people, especially on social media.

What you were saying about a store: it’s something we also have it in mind. But we’re not at the level now to do that big step.

During the next edition of Salone del Mobile in Milan, we’ll be approaching more the hospitality business. We really want to go into this field. It takes a lot of time, plus the credibility that you have as a fashion company is more difficult compared to a design company.

Andrea Rosso


Does it mean that you need more products?  

More products and more volume. We also need to be more relevant. But it’s the right time for us to approach this field. 

I was thinking about having such a concept in selected stores like the one you opened in New York recently.

The future of fashion stores is really also about entertaining: café, a seating area where you can sit. This approach is important for the Living collection.  

There’s the challenge with the different price points of the products that you mentioned before, though…

Yeah, but if you go to a store ten times, try the couch there each time and it’s comfortable, you may buy one in the future.

The future of fashion stores is really also about entertaining: café, a seating area where you can sit. This approach is important for the Living collection.

Andrea Rosso


While travelling, can you recall the last thing that you recently saw and had a profound impact on your work?

Russia has been a very good inspiration for Living. The restaurants and hotels there led me to the stronger focus on the hospitality field. In Saint Petersburg, we visited an amazing flea market, one of the biggest in Europe. You could find so much good stuff.