AC Milan and Diesel team up
Italian clothing brand Diesel has become the official 'style partner' for the iconic Italian football club A.C. Milan. The partnership will last for at least the next three years and see the players dressed off-pitch in a specially designed range that mixes contemporary sportswear with a casual tailoring aesthetic.
During A.C. Milan's recent trip to Qatar, Esquire Middle East sat down with club captain and Italy international, Riccardo Montolivo, and Diesel, founder, Renzo Rosso, to talk about the new partnership, fatherhood and their love of the Middle East.
ESQUIRE: What qualities do A.C. Milan and Diesel share?
Renzo Rosso: They are two Italian icons, each with their own global presence. They share many of the same values, such as team spirit, a brave attitude, and the will to win. We both have an unconditional passion for the sport itself.
Riccardo Montolivo: Yes, they are both Italian brands born and bred. Truly made in Italy.
Riccardo, how has Diesel been to work with? Has Renzo been bossy?
RM: No, it’s been fun; we only met properly three months ago but the relationship is great. I love working with Diesel. It’s a bit of a revolution — I think we are the first team in the world to wear casual attire as opposed to suiting off-pitch. For us, it’s nice and comfortable, which is important when we travel.
Do you think you will start a revolution on the pitch too? Maybe people will play football in blazers and denim?
RR: I think we started a revolution, yes, but I don’t know about a football-attire revolution.
RM: You will have to speak with Adidas about that and see what they say! Maybe the goalkeeper can?
Could any of the players be unveiled as part of the next ad campaign?
RR: Behind every creative decision, there’s Nicola Formichetti, Diesel’s artistic director, who’s still working on the next campaign as we speak. It will be unveiled this month, stay tuned.
How does Nicola Formichetti feel about Diesel working with A.C. Milan on this partnership?
RR: In the beginning he didn’t understand how football could be important to the fashion industry, but now he knows the players, he sees their faces, their bodies and how many followers they have on their social networks, and is very happy to work with A.C. Milan. Our vision is to change the formal way that soccer players normally dress. When we were first approached, we said we wanted to do something totally new, that people would remember. We are a bold brand first and foremost.
Are there players you think have stand-out style?
RR: So many of them. A.C. Milan is the team with the youngest players. Manuel Locatelli is nineteen years old, it’s unbelievable, and it’s such an international, global team. Diesel is also a global brand, so it works. There is [Carlos] Bacca from Colombia and [M’Baye] Niang from France. It’s good to have players that come from all the different countries so we can connect with them and their markets.
This collection seems very wearable. Was this a key consideration?
RR: Yes, it’s much more comfortable and casual than expected. A lot of attention to detail. The jeans are drop-crotch and it is all very different to the usual thing you see. You really could play football in these jeans.
RM: I love the material of the trousers; it’s so comfortable to wear.
So you like the range?
RM: Yes, it makes me feel younger. We have a very young team and I am the oldest player, so this will help me keep up with them. It’s perfect for us. I have never worn anything like this before.
Do you like fashion in general?
RM: Yes, me and my wife live in Milan so we have to. It’s in our blood. We like casual more than formal styles, which is why I like Diesel.
So will we be seeing more of a sportswear influence within the Diesel collections?
RR: Yes, I think so, I just presented pieces to the press in Milan last Sunday, a touch of the February collection, and it was well received.
Renzo, can you play football? Have you had a kick-around yet with the players?
RR: Yes I can, I play football every Sunday, together with my sons and friends. I have not had yet a kick-around with the players but I hope it’s going to happen very soon. Meanwhile, I keep on training to better myself.
And Riccardo, do you ever play any other sports when you get the chance?
RM: Football is my love, tennis sometimes. I mostly just play football with my friends in the summer.
AC Milan's Riccardo Montolivo (left) and Cristian Zapata
Do you play A.C. Milan-quality or do you dumb it down so you’re not showing off?
RM: [Laughs] No, I dumb it down a little.
RR: I enjoy playing sports. I like mountain biking, snowboarding, surfing and yoga.
Are either of you in the Middle East often?
RR: I was here a few months ago; it’s beautiful and I love it here. It’s a key market for us and we work very hard alongside our partner here to continue to grow. We have 32 stores currently in the UAE and hopefully more are to follow.
RM: Home for me is Milan, or Europe in general, as my mother is German, but I love holidaying here over Christmas with my family. I have been to Dubai twice, Abu Dhabi, now Qatar — I like it here very much.
Renzo, have you noticed any specific differences in what customers expect or value here?
RR: I spend a lot of time here because I want to be in constant contact with my customers. I hope soon we can do a capsule dedicated to them, so all of their expectations are met.
What would that be like?
RR: We would approach it with both modernity and relevance. For example, we could do a piece that is closer to the traditional dress and religion. I want to understand and respect this and do something special and unique for them.
Promise us it will be made from a very light material. No wool!
RR: Of course!
You are both family men. Is it hard to be away from your kids so often with work?
RR: Yes, it is difficult but is it part of our life. It is nice when I can stay home and do the school runs; I love that and I like to give my full energy and focus to them when we are all together. I learn so much from them. But half of my time is spent on aeroplanes, so it can be tricky.
RM: I am always home currently, because of my injury [a knee injury last October that will take six months to heal]. My new baby it’s easier for me to forget about the problem. I can just focus on my wife and daughter. Fatherhood really is amazing though. It’s a new feeling for me as it’s my first baby. I pretty much feel tired all the time now.
Is she going to be a football player?
RM: Maybe, I don’t know. Maybe a fashion girl, who knows.
Renzo, can you tell us in one sentence, who the Diesel man is?
RR: He is not a follower, but is the driver. He knows what is going on around the world, he is charismatic and makes things happen.
The new Diesel A.C. Milan collection will be available to purchase in Diesel stores from mid February 2017.