Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on November 2010
The 55-year-old founder of renowned fashion brand Diesel recently started the Only the Brave Foundation, which helps disadvantaged communities in Africa
Tell us about the Only the Brave Foundation.
One day I was talking with the Dalai Lama, and I told him I wanted to do something with more social responsibility and maybe I should stop working. He advised me to keep working, that I was very fortunate to run a big company and provide jobs, but to use that to build a foundation to help the needy. On September 14, we launched a project to help a village in Mali.
I have a particular affinity with Africa. Even in poverty, I have felt the spirit, the incredible richness of traditions, history and hope for the future. People in Africa have the capacity, they only need the opportunity. At the village of Dioro, seeds and fertilizers have been distributed to boost agriculture, bed nets have been provided to every household to decrease malaria, and we’ve built a new health clinic, primary school and community center. The next steps include the installation of new water sources, bringing free internet to the village, and incubating new business opportunities.
There are a lot of good causes and lot of charities. How is yours different?
We are interactive. When you access the foundation website, you can see what is going on and talk with the villagers. The website encourages participation, engagement and contributions—not only monetary but also of ideas, free time, advocacy work, etcetera. The real village itself has been recreated digitally—a revolutionary platform synchronized with Facebook—and browsers can navigate through it, visit and view the real places.
How is Diesel doing this year?
Good. In Japan, which is Diesel’s biggest market, sales grew 4.8 percent in 2009.
What do you think of Japanese fashion?
Fantastic. I come here every few months with my designer. There are always new ideas on the street.
Your stores promote the idea that Diesel is a lifestyle…
It is about attitude. You should turn your back on the forecasters and let your own tastes lead you. Sampling, mixing and style surfing are the best ways to go.
You’re known for innovative events. Can you give us an example?
Once, at a fashion show in Europe, we made the audience walk the catwalk with models inspecting them as they passed by.
How do you like to relax?
I ride my Ducati or just hang out with friends or at home with my family and friends, drinking wine and eating good quality food. I also have a boat which I like to take out on the Mediterranean.
You have a laidback fashion sense, I see.
Everything I wear is 100 percent Diesel.
Ever worn a suit?
Only once—at my wedding.
For more information on Only the Brave, see www.otbfoundation.org.