by LAUREN M. MURPHY
Nearly 30 years ago, Paul Marciano—along with his brothers Maurice, Georges and Armand— started one of the leading jean companies in the world, Guess. Who hasn’t worn a pair of jeans with the upside-down triangle at some point? Today, with Paul serving as creative director, CEO and cochairman of the board, along with brother Maurice, who is also cochairman, Guess is still growing and innovating.
The Marcianos’ story began in 1977, when Paul and his brothers decided to move to Los Angeles from Marseille, France, after falling in love with the city during a two-week vacation. In 1981 the Guess brand launched—and the rest is, well, l’histoire.
Los Angeles Confidential sat down with Marciano to talk about his company’s history, its legendary advertising campaigns and what’s in store—literally—for fall.
LOS ANGELES CONFIDENTIAL: How did you and your brothers come up with the name Guess?
PAUL MARCIANO: It’s hard to believe, but the name came from a McDonald’s billboard my brothers and I used to pass every day on our way to downtown Los Angeles to work. It was a spontaneous decision because the word “guess” makes you think “guess what?” It was catchy and cannot be mistaken, no matter what language you speak.
LAC: Do you come from a fashion background?
PM: No, my father is a rabbi, as was my grandfather and great-grandfather. When I was 18 and living in Marseille, I had two jobs—one in a discotheque and one as a salesman in a jeans store. I held both jobs for maybe six years before Maurice, Armand and I started our clothing company, MGA, in France. One day we left France for America, and that was it.
LAC: Guess really helped put jeans on the radar as a fashion statement. What was the first pair introduced by the company?
PM: We first came out with a slim-fitting, stonewashed, three-zip ankle jean called the Marilyn. We sent over a pair with a handwritten note to a few department stores and—to our delight—the buyer from Bloomingdale’s, who was the first supporter of the Guess brand, ordered 24 pairs. Our famous Marilyn jean was so sexy and fresh that within hours the entire stock sold out.
LAC: How does your French background influence your designs?
PM: The key to any success is a good balance. Given that I grew up in Europe, I took the European sense of fashion, style and glamour and applied it to the American utilitarian notion of denim. This created the perfect formula for Guess, which is why we are still one of the leading fashion denim companies in the world.
LAC: What inspires and motivates you creatively?
PM: Traveling the world is a great source of inspiration. I frequently go to Europe and Asia for business. During these trips I get the chance to observe the world and come in contact with very talented people who inspire me. In addition I have the privilege of living in Los Angeles, which I consider to be one of the most cosmopolitan and exciting cities in the world. Los Angeles is a true melting pot. In one city you have the chance to come across so many cultures and diverse people; that always stimulates my creativity.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY ELLEN VON UNWERTH (MARCIANO); COURTESY OF GUESS (SCHIFFER)