On a crisp autumn evening in Beijing last moth, Renzo Rosso, denim entrepreneur extraordinaire, steps into his new Maison Martin Margiela store - the first to land in China. The avant-garde fashion label with Belgian origins is just one in Diesel founder Rosso's impressive portfolio. Rosso is met with much praise, as Chinese fashionistas celebrated the first of several edgy fashion stores opening that week in Sanlitun, Chaoyang. Later on would be Etro and Alexander McQueen. We caught up with Rosso at his huge, new Diesel headquarters in Breganze, Italy - situated near a provincial town only 30 minutes drive from his hometown of Padua. The modern space and building, designed as a Diesel village for his loyal tribe, has become the talking point of the fashion industry. 'We've grown a lot in the past 33 years,' says the tanned 50-year-old. With a mass of curly salt-and-pepper hair and tattoos over his arms, hands and neck, Rosso is wearing a simple black-T and (naturally) Diesel blue jeans. The man peering over definitely doesn't look like your average multi-million dollar corporate businessman - try motorcycle enthusiast or rebellious rock 'n' roll star. 'We have so many small companies, and in the end I didn't feel I saw my people - I felt that it was important,' says Rosso. 'Now it's an open space. I say hello to everybody and there is more teamwork.' The impression of the Diesel centre is not of a traditional Italian powerhouse fashion label. Firstly, there no stiff formality. All staff up to chief executive Daniela Riccardi are dressed casually in trendy denims. Employees are young, and though not quite shuttling around offices on kick-bike scooters, Diesel Breganze certainly has a vibe you'd expect from Google or Apple offices. The whole area has wi-fi (rare for Italy), they use the newest technology, and conferences are done on iPads. With investments in new tech companies like YOOX (a leading name in luxury e-commerce), Rosso is certainly looking to the future. 'In my life, I never work for money,' he says. 'Every single day, I prefer to put my hands into the details and want to do something beautiful fresh and modern. This is the attitude that I come to work with everyday. From the receptionists to the cleaners to the management, I try to motivate in this way. They really feel part of the company - and that's fantastic. I want the headquarters to reflect that.' The creative office atmosphere is encouraged by the design of this impressive building - an extension of Rosso's ethos. More like a university campus than a corporate powerhouse, on one side of the central atrium is one of Europe's longest vertical green wall, dripping with plants. Looking down from above, you see the Diesel mohawk logo etched onto the floor at reception, as young staffers lounge around in their designer denims and hipster haircuts, chatting or typing away. The scene could be an ad for a cool Silicon Valley tech company. His stunning, spacious two-storeyed private office has a tropical garden in the centre, a steel staircase and countless pictures on the walls of famous Diesel campaigns and Rosso with celebrity friends. Seeing his habitat, at the helm of a trendy company that has successfully flogged its brand of quirky, conscious hedonism over three decades, it's easy to forget Rosso's humble upbringing on a farm near Padua. Enrolling in a fashion industry school at age 15 in his town because 'it was easy', Rosso was stitching his first pair of jeans at his mother's machine. 'From then on, I felt I could do something with this, because it was a success and I started making it for my friends. It was a very difficult when I started my company,' he says, recalling the initial resistance to his pioneering introduction of denims that were distressed and treated to appear vintage. 'But I believed this new denim was so special and spectacular that I pushed it so much. Eventually we created a distribution and a big trend, and now I feel good because everyone is doing it, even lots of luxury brands.' Rosso changed the fashion industry's approach to denim, but Diesel's cheeky advertising campaigns were also noteworthy new communication tools. 'Sometimes we didn't even want to show the products,' he says. 'Instead we did something funny with irony and created a relationship with the consumer. They became interested - it was a new philosophy.' This success of this philosophy plays out like a huge in-joke for Diesel customers, creating a lifestyle for the label's cultish global fan base. Rosso's new chief executive, Daniela Riccardi, thinks Diesel's success is down to 'the vision of Renzo, from his own philosophy, the way he started' when pioneering vintage effect denim. 'People thought he was crazy and this thing could never work, but he sees things the way they could be - not the way they are,' she says. 'I never followed the other traditional Italian fashion houses,' says Rosso, 'I always followed my own instinct and the group of people who worked with me. I am never satisfied with creativity; I always push my team forward.' In addition to Diesel, Diesel Black Gold, DSL, 55DSL, Rosso owns several other labels, including DSquared, Viktor & Rolf and Maison Martin Margiela. Some of these logos have even been tattooed on his body, and his attitude to acquisitions is 'always looking for something that can be for the future, never for today.' He is proud owner of a Miami design hotel, a farm and an Italian soccer team. His manufacturing/distribution company Staff International manages Just Cavalli, Vivienne Westwood and Marc Jacobs Men, amongst numerous other labels. With additional vested interests in Italian start-ups, high-tech companies and a host of charities, one wonders how Rosso has enough fingers for all those pies. 'We don't choose to be mass or luxury,' he says of his fashion portfolio. 'For me the future is contemporary - for me, luxury now is too stiff, too difficult, too expensive; it is bourgeois and not quite part of the new generation. The new generation wants something more practical, more democratic, easier to wear. So I very much believe in this contemporary vision.' While big luxury conglomerates such as French multinationals PPR and LVMH are reaping big rewards as developing markets like China spur on steady growth, Rosso believes that these markets will soon change. 'When people start to become rich, the first brand they buy are the big luxury names,' he says. 'But when they start to tire of these and don't want to look like everyone else, they go to contemporary fashion.' Luckily, this happens to be his forte, and Rosso already has high hopes for the first mainland Margiela store. 'The first generation of Chinese got into luxury first,' says Riccardi, who was previously the Director of Procter & Gamble in China. 'But I think now the market is actually ready for the second wave. They are jumping very quickly ahead, so it's the perfect moment for us.' They've also honed in on womenswear, a market that Diesel had lost some hold on in recent years. 'We really did 360-degree work on [womenswear],' says Riccardi. 'Starting with the consumer profile - to be very clear on what type of a woman she is.' Collections were adapted, adding more dresses and feminine shapes. Rosso is obviously a busy man. Between work, Diesel farm, biking, yoga, boating, jogging and presiding over this empire, Rosso claims he is most creative when totally relaxed. But there seems little time in the day for that - especially now. Having made a career as the face of the anti-establishment in Italian fashion, Rosso has recently experienced a major turn as its unlikely hero, with industry insiders beginning to recognise the importance of his contemporary portfolio. And with Italy's crisis, Rosso's Breganze headquarters are even touted as the future of how Italian fashion companies could work - its humanistic, green and high-tech approach a distinct challenge to some traditions. 'I have a very simple education from my parents,' says Rosso. 'They trained me to respect people and to have value for life - in society we have lost a lot of this. People now want too much, too fast and too easy.' Brand new Diesel's involvement with the International Talent Support award keeps the company in touch with budding young creatives. Many competition winners (selected from the 1,000-plus portfolios from about 80 countries) have been recruited by the brand. With increasing talent from China, Japan and South Korea, Rosso insists that it is a crucial part to keeping his outlook fresh and relevant. Centre of attention Diesel's headquarters in Breganze is in an old industrial area. The project was lead by the Diesel Interior Design Team and Diesel Creative team with the help of external suppliers and Studio Ricatti. The building is a low-rise structure, integrating offices, warehouses, exhibition spaces, an auditorium, kindergarten, canteen, bar and fitness centre. In a holistic, sustainable design the building uses photovolatai systems, geothermal heating and landscaped roofing. It is a gleaming space for the Diesel community - a real urban design project for the 1,000 employees working there. It is furnished with Diesel Home - the label's home range. But Rosso's involvement with design isn't restricted to his own company. 'We must be involved in social things,' he says of his charity, the Only the Brave Foundation, which works with experts to build a self-sustainable village in Mali for 20,000 people.