MILAN — To sum up Marcelo Burlon’s career is no easy feat.
One could arguably say he’s done it all, from helping his mother clean a small hotel and working as a barman, to venturing into nightlife public relations, DJ gigs and, briefly, go-go dancing.
That was even before he jumpstarted his Marcelo Burlon County of Milan brand in 2012 and formed an alliance with Davide De Giglio and Claudio Antonioli in 2017 to establish the Milan-based New Guards Group, which was sold to Farfetch two years later.
“The thing started in 2012 as a one-off project, to tell our story through a bunch of T-shirts that the guys attending my DJ sets all over the world could wear. I sensed that there was an urgency to feel like belonging to something,” Burlon told WWD.
The “thing” gained steam sooner rather than later and the T-shirt project rapidly evolved into a full-fledged fashion brand, with nods to crafts and Burlon’s Argentinean roots, which he has reinterpreted through a techno-folk lens. (He was born in the Patagonia region, specifically in El Bolsón, surrounded by a hippie community.)
In 2014, Pitti Uomo named Marcelo Burlon County of Milan its winter edition’s guest designer, cementing the designer’s reputation within the fashion system and the men’s arena.
Even so, the journey was not always smooth.
“I think that when I launched the brand, I was a bit ‘annoying’ to the industry,” Burlon admitted. His uncharacteristic approach to fashion storytelling bothered some, so much so that at one point, he recalled, Milan’s central neighborhood, Porta Venezia, was covered in posters bearing his portrait and some vulgar comments.
The fashion pack had, and still has, fond memories of Burlon’s after parties during Milan Fashion Week, often held at low-lit industrial venues and packed with cool kids, some not even caring about fashion per se. As a PR person, he had learned how to make an impact: He masterminded several hyped events, including a Versace party with Prince and the launch of a Gucci fragrance.
“My brand’s strength was having my creations sported by a real crew,” Burlon said. “It suddenly became a hit and social media certainly played a role, I was among the first to embrace them and advertise my PR and DJ gigs on A Small World, Myspace and Facebook, which back then was in its early stages,” the creative explained.
“The fashion establishment didn’t really understand what I was doing, or my marketing strategies, but I think in the end I was right — everybody embraced the digital world,” he added.
“I’ve always fought for independence and followed my own journey. This is how it works,” he said bluntly.
Now marking his brand’s 10th anniversary, Burlon was supposed to host a three-day, community-facing, open-to-all festival, but plans changed slightly and he’s instead orchestrating a show on Saturday at the Velodromo Vigorelli, featuring a giant satellite in the middle of the track field and a cast of 50 friends of the house.
“It’s going to have a terrific cast of friends from all over the world and different backgrounds. These 10 years bear my name but in fact they were made up by the people who supported me throughout,” Burlon said.
Giving back is part of his vocabulary. In 2021, he set up his own foundation to help disadvantaged people and marginalized communities, for example, making a donation to Tuscany-based Casa Marcella, a house for trans people, and most recently helping to offer a shelter to Ukrainian refugees in Milan.
The show will be followed — no surprise — by an after party at the Magazzini Generali nightclub, where his career in PR started in 1998.
Fashion-wise, the spring collection is, in Burlon’s vocabulary, a balance of craft and street, folk inflections and street edge, with denim, embroideries, nylon and psychedelia all thrown into the mix.
The anniversary celebrations will also be marked by several collaborations to drop through the end of the year, but he stayed mum on details.
Now living between Ibiza — where his house surrounded by olive trees is an art alcove featuring artworks from Keith Haring, Damien Hirst and Stefan Brüggemann, among others — and his native Patagonia, Burlon is always on the hunt for the next youth-quake.
“Every 10 years, there’s new music, new drugs, and one must listen and see them to stay up to date,” Burlon said.
In 2000, he was part of the street scene in Italy, wearing Supreme long before it was catapulted to global fame, and befriending industry heavyweights such as the late Virgil Abloh and Palm Angels’ Francesco Ragazzi. “We’ve always broken the rules and stood out effortlessly,” he said.
For all his achievements, including a Rizzoli book published last year, one dream remains unfulfilled: to open a Milan store, which he said is in the pipeline for later in the year.
“It’s going to be my Milan home,” he said.