The company was founded by Renzo Rosso and his former boss Adriano Goldschmied of the AG Jeans company, in 1978. Diesel's milestone years include 1985 (Renzo's complete acquisition of the company), 1988 the hiring straight out of fashion college of ex-head designer and Creative Director Wilbert Das, 1991 (beginning of the international marketing strategy) and 1996 (opening of Diesel's first flagship store on New York City's Lexington Avenue).
Rosso said that they learnt marketing from the US, creativity from Italy and systems from Germany.
In February 2007, the company launched a major intimates and beachwear division for men and women that is carried in the retail and department stores. Diesel Black Gold was announced in November 2007. The company has around 2,200 employees in 18 subsidiaries across Europe, Asia and the Americas. Its products are available in 5000 retail outlets, of which 300 are Diesel-branded stores. Annual sales were approximately ¤1.2 billion in 2005, and ¤1.3 billion in 2009. Revenue is largely derived from denim sales, but also extremely successful and influential ranges of accessories and children's wear - Diesel Kid.
Production of denim jeans is based mainly in Italy.
The biggest store is located in Milan, Italy.
For over 20 years all Diesel collections, including licensed products, were made under the Creative Direction of Wilbert Das. Currently the principal lines are Diesel, the main line, and Diesel Black Gold, a new collection launched in 2007 in the casual-luxury segment. The children's collection is called Diesel Kid. Diesel Denim Gallery offers limited edition denim sold in innovative art-gallery-like spaces. Diesel also offers collections of footwear, intimate (underwear), and bags. Diesel's licensed collections are eyewear (made with Safilo), jewelry and watches (Fossil), and fragrances (L'Oréal). L'Oreal and Diesel launched Fuel for Life (for him and for her) in the fall of 2007. A mini-collection for Adidas was launched in 2008 called Adidas Originals Denim by Diesel. The underwear license is held by the US company Mast Industries Inc., who also make lingerie for Victoria's Secret. A new collaboration with AGV has seen the launch of a Helmet. Recently Diesel Home, thanks to collaborations with Moroso nd Foscarini has been launched in the market.
The Diesel company has acquired stakes in the brands Victor & Rolf, Maison Martin Margiela and DSquared2.