Why Guess al­ways looks good in jeans

Ex­hi­bi­tion tries on 35 years of brand’s de­signs

Los Angeles Times - - IMAGE - By In­grid Sch­midt im­age@la­times.com

L.A. fash­ion brand Guess may be known as much for its va-vavoom ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns as for its se­cond-skin stonewashed jeans.

Paul Mar­ciano, the 65-year-old ex­ec­u­tive chair­man and chief cre­ative of­fi­cer of Guess Inc., founded the com­pany with his broth­ers Mau­rice, Ge­orges and Ar­mand in 1981. (Mau­rice con­tin­ues to serve on the board of di­rec­tors; the other broth­ers ex­ited the com­pany years ago.) To­day the com­pany pro­duces ap­prox­i­mately 4.7 mil­lion pairs of jeans per year and sells in 101 coun­tries, with plans to ex­pand in Asia, Eastern Europe and the Mid­dle East.

In cel­e­bra­tion of 3½ decades of busi­ness, Mar­ciano wel­comed a crowd at the Fash­ion In­sti­tute of De­sign & Mer­chan­dis­ing Mu­seum in down­town Los An­ge­les ear­lier this month to pre­view the ex­hi­bi­tion “Guess: 35 Years & Still Dream­ing.” In at­ten­dance were some of the more than 1,100 FIDM grad­u­ates who have gone on to work for Guess.

No stranger to the mu­seum world, Paul and Mau­rice re­cently de­buted the Mar­ciano Art Foun­da­tion, a con­tem­po­rary art mu­seum on Wil­shire Boule­vard near Kore­atown that dis­plays their pri­vate col­lec­tions.

The mul­ti­ple-gallery Guess in­stal­la­tion at FIDM en­com­passes two themes. “Denim Is Our World” dives into Guess denim de­sign and fin­ish­ing tech­niques (from sand­ing and de­stroy­ing to wash­ing with pumice stones, acid, even golf balls), while “Decades of Guess: Cam­paigns, Cul­ture + Color” show­cases looks from each decade, along with the com­pany’s dis­tinc­tive ad­ver­tis­ing im­agery star­ring mod­els such as Clau­dia Schif­fer, Anna Ni­cole Smith, Naomi Camp­bell, Kate Up­ton, Gigi Ha­did and Hai­ley Bald­win pos­ing in pin­up­girl style.

Much like earn­ing a spot as a Vic­to­ria’s Secret An­gel, land­ing a role in a Guess cam­paign is con­sid­ered to be a ma­jor mod­el­ing ac­co­lade, given the track record of the elite group.

The lat­est re­cruit is 20-year-old Cuban singer Camila Ca­bello, fea­tured in the fall ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign that hits July 17. As for Guess guys, Joe Jonas posed in an un­der­wear cam­paign ear­lier this year, and the com­pany has re­cently teamed with A$AP Rocky on Guess Orig­i­nals col­lec­tions.

Dur­ing the pre­view event (and by email af­ter­ward), Mar­ciano talked to us about the brand’s L.A. roots and pop cul­ture in­spi­ra­tions.

L.A. ori­gins

“My broth­ers and I started [the com­pany] just two blocks away, on Broad­way, at two dif­fer­ent of­fices. If you look at the tri­an­gle of [the] Guess [la­bel], you will see the num­bers 1201 and 1203, which were sim­ply the suite num­bers of our rooms. Peo­ple were think­ing, ‘This is black magic’ and try­ing to fig­ure it out. … We drove from the West­side of Los An­ge­les to down­town ev­ery day, and we found the name of Guess on a bill­board for McDon­ald’s in Kore­atown.

“It was a new, na­tion­wide cam­paign that had ‘guess’ as the big word, and very small on the bot­tom, it said, ‘What is in a Big Mac?’ with a pic­ture of a new, gi­gan­tic burger. Three of us didn’t speak English. And in French, ‘guess’ means noth­ing. The one who spoke English said, ‘Still it means noth­ing to me.’ Long story short, Mau­rice de­signed the first red tri­an­gle with a ques­tion mark [to rep­re­sent Guess], and I shot my first cam­paign in 1982.”

Hol­ly­wood icons

“The in­flu­ence of Hol­ly­wood has been, from Day One, a big in­spi­ra­tion for me on ev­ery cam­paign. My dreams and in­flu­ences and in­spi­ra­tion came through old movies like ‘La Dolce Vita’ from Fellini, ‘And God Cre­ated Woman’ with Brigitte Bar­dot, and all of the clas­sic, black-and-white movies of Sophia Loren.

“I re­ally al­ways had three iconic women in my head. … Loren, Bar­dot and Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe, and that guided me al­ways to de­fine what a Guess Girl was and [who she] is in my eyes to­day.”

The essence of Guess

“In a few words, the essence and style of Guess to­day is sim­ply Cal­i­for­nia, smart, sexy, and what is right in your own eyes. … It doesn’t have to fol­low any trend or ‘musthave’ as long as it’s what you feel good about [wear­ing].”

Pho­to­graphs by Emma McIntyre Getty Images

DE­SIGNS from through­out Guess’ 35 years are dis­played at the FIDM Mu­seum in down­town L.A.

THE DECADES un­furl in “Guess: 35 Years & Still Dream­ing.” Else­where, the ex­hi­bi­tion re­vis­its Guess’ dis­tinc­tive ad­ver­tis­ing.

DENIM fin­ish­ing tech­niques and de­sign are ex­plored in the FIDM ex­hi­bi­tion, on view through July 8 and open to the pub­lic.

PAUL MAR­CIANO of Guess with FIDM’s Bar­bara Bundy.

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