English Version | Guess again

13 Apr 2023
By Vogue Portugal

If you ever doubted the ability of a quartet of brothers from the south of France to revolutionize an American staple as iconic as jeans, think again. The formula was accurate. And guess what? For over forty years, denim has been spelled with the same five letters as Guess.

If you ever doubted the ability of a quartet of brothers from the south of France to revolutionize an American staple as iconic as jeans, think again. The formula was accurate. And guess what? For over forty years, denim has been spelled with the same five letters as Guess.

Los Angeles, California. Little could it be guessed that a family vacation in that city on the edge of the Pacific would unleash in the Marciano brothers such a passion that it would result in one of the most famous and established names in the retail industry: Guess would be born in 1981. The quartet, hailing from the south of France, was delighted with the idea of the Americana philosophy and it didn't take long before they put their oh-la-la touch on one of its most emblematic symbols - the denim. The idea of a group of French gentlemen taking something so intrinsic to the country's culture as their own seemed to emerge some resistance (a revolution is no feat without a dose of counterculture, truth be told), but the introduction into the market turned out to be a novelty more worthy of applause and less a sacrilege as some might have anticipated. No surprise there: the innovative touch they put on their debut product - a pair of slim-fitting, stonewashed jeans (a wash little known and explored in the United States market), with three zips they called Marilyn Jean - made them popular with the most iconic department stores, destinations of excellence for those who wanted to find top products - as the brand's pieces would prove to be. The founders of Guess, at the time, not only knew the formula for success in product development, they also knew the right formula for marketing: they sent, to a select number of large department stores, a sample of this newly-found craze with a handwritten note. Bloomingdales was the first visionary to invest in the brand, ordering 24 pairs: then, it was a chain (r)evolution, with names like Bergdorf Goodman, Bonwit Teller, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue not wanting to be left out of this maiden soyage that was to make denim synonymous with sexy chic, after decades being labeled as workwear. In its first year, the brand had already conquered almost all revered department stores in the United States, and the achievement was much greater than the occupation of the most coveted carts and shelves in retail: they had revolutionized a preconceived idea of this type of outfit, until then somewhat diminished to a role of extreme casualness and which was now seen sensually, as a piece of style, as an object of desire, as Fashion, even, and which gained a legion of followers who religiously adored this new addition to the wardrobe.

It wasn't random or chance, the idea was boiling in their vision: in the minds of its founders, the purpose was to create the ideal fashion brand and that would mean crossing the legendary glamour of Hollywood with the touch of the mythical effortless french chic. The philosophy was reflected not only in the product, but also in advertising: the result entirely of the vision of the younger brother Paul (he had the Guess DNA so clear in his imagination that he dispensed with any outsourcing intervention in advertisement), the images translated this match made in heaven between the classic allure of Hollywood and the contemporary sexy of the lines and pieces, exponentiated by the casting of Fashion personalities who gave face to the campaigns, but above all personified the Guess Woman, the one who was confident, sure of herself, who didn’t disregard tradition, yet did not settle for them, keeping their eyes locked on the future. Claudia Schiffer, Carré Otis, Eva Herzigova, Laetitia Casta, Naomi Campbell, Anna Nicole Smith, Paris Hilton were some of the strong names that starred in these campaigns, but also Estelle Lefebure, an unknown French model at the time and who inaugurated this idea of Guess Girl. Even Carla Bruni, aged just 16, is part of the history of the house's images. Of equal or greater renown was the list of photographers: from Ellen Von Unwerth to Herb Ritts, the brand's advertisements became stars - starting with the product. More than breaking down barriers, Guess revolutionized by uniting, by creating a bridge between glamour and relaxation, without jeopardizing the final seductive effect. These jeans - and the spin off pieces in this material and in others that followed it - crossed the past with the present, forever shaping the future of the brand - and of denim.

The Marciano brothers' entrepreneurship, namely the name that ended up being synonymous with the label, Paul, for having become the face and driving force of Guess until today, was a kind of rebellion with a cause - and effect: recognizing the Guess triangle that is the brand's logo is to recognize the attitude and revolution, as well as the responsibility for quality, that comes with it.

Originally translated from The Revolution Issue, published April 2023.Full stories and credits on the print issue.

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