Paul Marciano, founder of Guess and creator of its strong image, talks about the 35 years of life of the brand and its future, from historical advertising campaigns to new challenges: “We can do more on e-commerce”
A life without denim? “Impossible. You just have to open any woman’s wardrobe to understand that it will never happen. The crisis of retail? It is happening in U.S.A., where because of sky-high rents young people prefer to buy online, but in Europe and Asia physical stores still work perfectly”. As for his group, currently experiencing a very delicate phase, he believes they should not only think of sales but also of social issues, like violence against women: “They account for 85% of our customers, we inevitably care about their wellness and not only about the way they dress. That’s why we created the Denim Day. Paul Marciano, 65, is in Rome to present the third Italian edition of the charity event (see box) and when he talks about its creature, Guess – a jewel earning him 2.2 billion dollars a year founded in 1981 with his brothers, of which he is creative director and president – he shows the same enthusiasm and respect as when speaking to a beautiful woman, one of those photographed in the brand’s advertising campaigns.
Do you think it is important that fashion opens itself to the outside world and deals with social issues as well as with how people dress?
The world sees Guess mainly as a women’s brand. That’s why it is normal that our job is also an opportunity to say that we stand against violence and rape. The Denim Day is a crucial event for us. We celebrate it in our main markets: U.S.A., Italy, Spain and next year also Germany and Switzerland.
To what extent is the success of your brand linked to your ability to create female icons?
1988’s black and white advertisements were a real turning point for us. Since then we have always chosen unknown or half-unknown super young models for our campaigns. That’s how we discovered Claudia Schiffer and Carla Bruni and many others who followed. They were important to establish the brand: they raised people’s interest and everyone started talking about the Guess Girls.
Those campaigns were shot before the advent of the Internet, when magazines still influenced purchases. Now, with the establishment of social media, do these images have the same strategic importance as they had at that time?
Today social media are the most powerful communication channel. Of course they have their own rules that must be followed. Among our testimonials is Gigi Hadid, whose success on social media is incredible.
You were the first to understand the importance of monobrand stores (almost 1,700 stores in the world, ed.). However, today many think this format is obsolete…
Things are changing very fast in distribution. The situation varies depending on the market. In U.S. we are facing a retail saturation and young people don’t go to shopping centres anymore. I see it with my two children; they are millennials and buy everything online. We shouldn’t neglect these aspects: in U.S. our e-commerce sales turnover is 150 million dollars in 2016 yet it is not enough for a global brand like Guess. That’s why we intend to work hard on this business.
Is e-commerce taking the lead also in the rest of the world?
In Europe there is still room for new monobrand stores. In 2017 we will open 77 with all our collections (Guess and Marciano). We have a similar situation in Asia and this year we will inaugurate 48 new stores.
What are you going to focus on to re-launch Marciano?
We decided to change the name into Marciano Los Angeles, paying homage to the city where it was born and to reposition the product. We will start from Europe, opening about 50 shops-in-shop in the existing Guess stores but we’ll also work on the online channel, which is essential to the growth of a brand.
You celebrated your 35th anniversary. How is Guess going to be in 10 years?
I could say bigger, but that’s not the most important thing. What I wish is that Guess keeps loyal to its spirit and its roots, of which denim is an essential part. It is probably because I founded it with my brothers, but I see this company as an inheritance for my children.
- Paul Marciano founded Guess in 1981 together with his brothers
- One of the memorable Guess campaigns shot by Pablo Alfaro, with Josie Maran as leading character
- Last April Guess inaugurated a new flagship store in Madrid: this is one of the 60 openings planned by the U.S. brand for the year 2017 between Middle East and Europe
With Guess also Italy celebrates the Denim Day
Guess Foundation Europe will celebrate the third edition of the Denim Day in Italy on May 27th.
Everything is ready for the Denim Day to be held on May 27th. For the third consecutive year in Italy Guess Foundation Europe, supporting Guess’ social projects, will promote the event aimed at fighting violence against women with a fundraising campaign for Di.Re – Donne in rete contro la violenza, with 100,000 € donated in 2015, 50,000 € in 2016 and 75,000 € in 2017. For every denim piece sold from May 20th to May 27th on Guess.eu and from selected Italian Guess retailers, the brand will donate 10 € to Di.Re. The symbol of the campaign, realised with The Circle Italia Onlus, is a red bandana worn by celebrities and web influencers to promote the project on their social profiles.