Guess has become known for effectively imprinting its image on the minds of consumers, most notably through its iconic advertising. But it all started with denim.
One can't accurately gauge the impact and influence Guess has had on the denim industry without first examining the environment in which the brand was born. It was 1982 when the Marciano brothers set out to break into the American retail market. It turned out to be a transitional period in American culture and fashion. The disco movement was breathing its last gasps, Madonna was making her first musical rumblings and denim was still dominated by old guard brands such as Levi's and Lee. Denim was dark, plain and occupied a low rung on the fashion food chain. Guess was instrumental in changing this.
"Levi's had a huge market share at the time," said Andrew Olah, a denim veteran and head of Olah Inc., which represents prominent textile and denim suppliers from around the world.
Despite this dominance, there was a target demographic Levi's was not adequately addressing, spelling opportunity for a company like Guess. "Over the last 20 years, Levi's has lost their market share, and they were never that vivacious with women's wear," said Olah.
Guess targeted women from the beginning and brought something unique to retailers. According to the company's most recently published book, "Guess by Marciano," retailers were initially reluctant to carry the Marcianos' first product offering, the three-zip Marilyn jean. Not only was the Marilyn not a traditional five-pocket style, it was also stonewashed, a relatively new and unfamiliar process. There were questions as to whether consumers would be interested in a denim that looked already worn. In short, the Marilyn was something with which risk-averse retailers weren't sure what to do.
When Bloomingdale's agreed to sell a test order of jeans, it was the catalyst to a boom that made Guess a driving force behind the emergence of status denim. Other labels, such as Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Diesel, eventually followed suit.
"The way Guess went about it, they penetrated the market by offering lots of choice and making denim relevant in lots of different styles and areas, like skirts and jackets," said Olah. "They glamorized jeanswear."After the look of the product, the advertising and marketing captured a look and feel for the brand's image that survives until this day and has been a crucial element to its success. While Paul sought to create an image and feeling with advertising, he was balanced by Maurice's commitment to the product. In the book, Paul gives examples of some of Maurice's denim-related concerns over the years when it came to advertising. "'What's wrong with you, going to Spain to shoot a bullfighter when there's not a single pair of jeans in the whole shoot?' and 'Why put dirt on our jeans and tear them?'" are the kinds of things Maurice asked of Paul.
Guess' ability to evolve while staying true to its brand identity is another attribute those in the denim industry point to as a key to success.
"They started out as that basic jean with the triangle Guess label, moving into the basic jean with the leather trim," said Brian Hogan, president of Modamood, the New York-based wholesale distributor for Replay jeans. "Over the years they've matured themselves into not just classifications but a full collection."
In fact, Guess has been more than a denim collection for well over 10 years. According to the
company's first annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, in 1996 only
approximately 40 percent of the company's product range consisted of denim items. No such breakdown was available for last year, but suffice it to say the company has signed 21 licenses for categories ranging from handbags to swimwear, opening additional Guess Accessories and Guess Footwear stores, which is a key element of the brand's growth strategy going forward.
Hogan said each expansion of the collection has added an element of maturity and sophistication, which has only helped solidify the company's image.
Of course, Hogan also couldn't discount the success of such compelling marketing. "When they first featured Anna Nicole, she was a newcomer with that wavy blonde hair — it made you stop and go, 'Wow,'" said Hogan. "They've got the same thing now with the new girl they've found. They haven't stepped left or right, they've kept their DNA in advertising."Jason Ferro, owner and president of Los Angeles-based Bread Denim, credits Guess with bringing a European flair to the American market. Ferro's perspective on Guess is that of a former insider. He spent three years as the brand's design director before venturing out on his own to start Bread. Prior to Guess, he logged design stints at Levi's and Abercrombie & Fitch during his 10 years in the industry.
"I think they're one of the first brands that really focused on premium denim. Back in the day, Guess was it, that's what everybody wanted," said Ferro. "They know how to create the environment and bring style to it, and they've kept on doing that over the years."
The label also has been the proving grounds for the designers behind a number of today's well-recognized premium denim brands. Jerome Dahan, said Ferro, worked at Guess before starting Seven For All Mankind and eventually Citizens of Humanity.
@chanel and @pharrell dropped what’s being dubbed as the world’s most exclusive sneakers yesterday. The Adidas Originals NMD Hu, which Williams designed in collaboration with Chanel and @adidasoriginals, has a waiting list of over 120K people who pre-registered online at chanelatcolette.fr –– and only 500 pairs are on sale. The singer predicted the resale value of the shoes could reach $40K. Read the full interview on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdfashion
@imanshumpert is diving deeper into his creative endeavors and relaunching his clothing line, Post 90s, and is helping to raise money for the hurricane victims in St. Maarten with a jersey he’s designed with his brother. The Cleveland Cavaliers player talked to WWD about kneeling during the national anthem, working with fashion brands and how he wants to be more than an @nba player. Read the interview on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)
Not only does #TheProfit return to CNBC tonight, but @marcuslemonis has launched @shopmarcus, a new shopping and lifestyle retail experience in Aspen and Chicago, with more locations to come. The retail stores offer in-store stylists and a variety of contemporary womenswear selections.
“It’s life, I’m going to face it,” @mingxi11 sighed. “I fell, but you know, I think the most important thing is that I get back up. I had the love, the help from my sister — the girl next to me Gizele [Oliveira] — she’s so nice. When I went backstage everybody was trying to comfort me like ‘Oh Ming, it’s OK.’ I’m really, really touched. I think it’s them who gave me the courage to go back on stage for the finale,” Xi told WWD of her fall at the @victoriassecret fashion show. (📷: David Fisher) #wwdfashion #vsfashionshow #victoriassecret
@louisvuitton tapped @therealpeterlindbergh for its latest city-centric photo book, which is part of a series called Fashion Eye. The primarily black and white book captures the spirit of Berlin in 57 images shot between 1989 and 2019. “Berlin is an inspiration for me, more than a city. I mean @millajovovich is simply Berlin!” said Lindbergh. #wwdfashion
“You know, I think audiences expect a certain performance so I have to deliver to them what they’re expecting to a certain degree. But I’m also a different actor and a different person, I have my own spin on the character,” says @noahegalvin of his takeover of the leading role in “Dear Evan Hansen” following the departure of @bensplatt, who originated the role. Read WWD’s interview with the 23-year-old actor on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
For pre-fall 2018, @etro created richly-colored wonderland, using tapestries, textiles and wallpapers from the Eastern world at large. The line featured floral and graphic prints and jacquard motifs, like this two-piece look featured here. #wwdfashion (📷: Giovanna Pavesi)
@kith is moving into children’s. The men’s and women’s streetwear brand has launched Kidset, a Kith kids line located in New York at 64 Bleecker Street. The line includes mini versions of staple Kith pieces like the Astor bomber jacket and the Kith box logo sweatshirts, along with a wall that can display up to 120 pairs of shoes from @adidas, @newbalance, @timberland and more. #wwdfashion
“I just wanted to create this fully rounded character, but I do think what excited me most was just the opportunity to give a group of people representation that I feel needs it. I like to do characters in projects that stand for something and Karolina definitely does, so that was really exciting to me,” @ginnygardner says of her new role in @hulu’s “The Runaways.” Gardner plays Karolina Dean, a queer superhero, which is a rarity for @marvel. Read more about Gardner’s character on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @dandoperalski)