His love for the art and Guess worldwide
SANDRA BRANT: Paul, you are a visionary and a creative thinker . That’s true of many , many artists. Is that kindred spirit the reason that you became interested in art? Is it why you and Maurice began your own collections and the Guess collection?
PAUL MARCIANO: Well, we started to collect very early on. I will not tell you all the mistakes that we made . All that we collected at the beginning and when the crisis came and all that, we start to sell a lot of paintings .
But we started really only on the Basquiat and Warhol and Lichtenstein in the 80s. You would pay $20,000 for the Basquiat in Paris . You would pay for the Warhol, $50,000 or $60,000 in the 80s. We collected so many . And then we made some mistakes .
Anyway, we started our collection like 25-30 years ago almost.
INGRID SISCHY: But does it come back to your same interest in independence, adventure, newness?
SANDY BRANT: Discovery .
PAUL MARCIANO: New artists, I mean , I was crazy about Yves Klein in the early 80s, like mid-80s.Yves Klein was not known because he had a very short life and very short creative , but such an intensive creative that he had . I love his drawings. You know what I’m talking about?
INGRID SISCHY : Yeah, of course
PAUL MARCIANO : Because in America, he started to be known really in the 90s more than in the 80s.
INGRID SISCIIY : I edited an Yves Klein book in the early 80s.
PAUL MARCIANO: But only the connoisseur would know about Yves Klein.
INGRID SISCHY : But what ‘s amazing Paul that Sandy and I were noticing – I mean , Pinot with PPR, Prada or no– it ‘s very famous that they all have these collections . But here Guess, I mean, both your private collection and the collection of Guess, do you guys have some major, major art there?
PAUL MARCIANO : I think we have some good pieces. What we want to do now is to create a museum — next to Guess building to put a Guess foundation museum, and but we don ‘t know . We might do that or Marciano Museum . We don ‘t know.
INGRID SlSCHY: that part of like one of the things we noticed when we were there is the restaurant, like this incredible family feeling and also this team spirit building. We observed a meeting that you had we said, “What ‘s going on in there Paul .” It was while we were visiting you. You said , “Oh, i don ‘t know . Let ‘s go see .” It was this amazing like almost team spirit building. And then the vibe in the restaurant and then surrounding your workers with this art.
SANDY BRANT : The fact that you ‘re so visionary and you really care so much about discovery , is that part of why you started to collect and become interested in art?
PAUL MARCIANO : Well, absolutely in the sense that I believe that creativity is always needed somewhere, somehow , a little portion of luck, a little portion of opportunity , a little portion of right timing . Every time i feel that in a photographer, in the model, in somebody who dreamed to do something different, like Pablo Alfaro was really an incredible photographer, but his real job was real estate. I want to give that exposure to somebody to dream big , like Usai .
Usai was doing campaigns for big names like Apple , but his dream was not product . His dream was fashion. His real dream was to go in a fashion world, not to stay a product photographer. And I did that with him. I think the rest of his life he will remember working together. I think it’s important that any time you have an opportunity to help somebody making their dream, you are making your own dream. You are making your own dream of sense of belief that if you have been blessed, if you have been given such incredible opportunity all your life, you constantly have to push it back to others and say if you can have that timing yet to come to you, let ‘s try this time with me and with Guess .
Guess has been known time after time that we created models, we created photographers. We always respected and helped their work and we have always promoted their art.
I’m talking Art like Ellen as really oeuvre. I am meeting tomorrow with fashion to do a book with Benedict Tashen, to do a book of all the unpublished pictures that nobody have seen before. All the top models with Ellen, from Carrie to Eva to Claudia to Kate Upton . I mean, all of it. That is a gift that I give back to the photographer because I’m not going to … as advertising. But each of them, including Ellen and the models and the makeup artists, all of them will have that in their library to say, “Thank you Guess. Thank you Paul .”
The little contribution of mine is really to put together the people, give them the freedom and guide them to say, “No, your work is good on that but it’s not that great on this . “No , you work is good on that . It’s not that great on this.” That’s my job. As long as it is in line with my aesthetics of what I want. But I think the key thing I go back to what I defined in my little book always is if I have to put three words of my life of – advertising of what I have worked, image and – marketing and whatever, has always been wonder, passion, – freedom .
INGRID SISCHY : And Paul, this is something you don ‘t have to literally explain, but the tough moments, were the tough moments things like recessions or sometimes the famous lawsuit that you had with Jordache or were the tough moments more the creative crises? What about the tough moments when you have those things?
PAUL MARCIANO : The tough moments , you know, I have a very strong, simple belief from my mom . She is not really conscious about the success of our company because she is not our generation and stuff like that . She doesn’t read any papers . She just hears. And she said, “My son always don’t forget whatever success you have , you can eat only twice a day and you can only sleep in one bed .”
So day one when we started to have some success, she said, “Always help others. Always every day do something -every day.” When things got tough and I go and talk to her to say, “Well, that and business is tough and we have a crisis about this. We have a problem with this.” She said, “You know, you can adapt to anything.” She said, “Your health is good. You are great.” I mean, she is simple. She said, “The door closes another one opens.” I mean , simple, basic stuff that she has said to me since I was a kid . ‘Your family. Work with your brothers. Make sure that you have always a trust around people with you .” But she never read a book. She never went to school. She doesn’t know how to write . She doesn’t know how to read. And she raised 13 brothers and sisters. She is the oldest of the family.
She is 87 now . I will be with her again tomorrow night for Shabbat . But the principle of all my life has been we need simple, simple things that I go back to. The book that changed my life was the Seven Habits of Steven Covey . And between him and my mom, I mean, I have like everything covered in it.
SANDY BRANT: You have taken the company across the globe and across many categories, all still with this strong American identity. Are there different challenges in each of those areas, in Europe, in Latin America, in Asia, Middle East?
INGRID SISCHY : Because it’s this image . It’s the same clear image, Paul.
PAOL MARCIANO : We became global with a very simple slide I created . I put in one slide for investors to understand what Guess is. We start with a jeans company . We created an image. An image gave us a licensing business. So licensing gave us stores in America. The image advertised for decades before we do any business was instant success in Europe. The minute we put product in Europe we sold incredibly well in the mid-90s, like ’96/’97 we started. We advertised in ’85 — ’85 to ’95, I was in every magazine in Europe and not a single product there. So the image was so anchored so strong in the ground.
We went from $100 million — a $60 million business to a billion-dollar business in Europe within six years.
Nobody — nobody has done that. $60 million to $1 billion in six years, so it’s unusual . But the brand is so strongly anchored in people’s mind . The brand recognition in the street anywhere in the world is about 90%. People know the brand. It doesn’t mean they know the product .
SANDY BRANT : Because you created such a strong, clear image from the beginning .
PAUL MARCIANO : Because I have never changed . Ralph Lauren has done exactly that, and my man on that was Ralph Lauren . When you see Ralph Lauren work with Bruce Weber, the consistency of Bruce with Ralph has never changed .
INGRID SISCHY : But what about when you get to something like Asia and the Pacific Rim and Middle East where the cultures are so different, Paul?
PAUL MARCIANO; That is where the challenge is different because it’s a new emerging market . There is no history in China of the magazine in the SOs, in the 60s, in the 70s. There are no movies of Jane Fonda and Sophia Loren ln the 60s and the 70s like in Italy or France . So you have a hard time to really find and connect what they know . The new Sophla Loren and Brigitte Bardot for them is Claudia Schiffer . This is a 90s and they knew all these images of Guess, which is …We opened 50 stores a year in China. Every year we open 50 stores a year in China — every year. So that’s we have already 160 stores. We are planning to have 100 stores in China in the next 4 years .
PAUL MARCIANO: Right now we are the number one brand in Korea, and Korea is Japan 25 years ago. I don’t know if you have been Seoul only . You have been in Japan many times.
INGRID SISCHY : Yes, but Seoul, it’s unbelievable, isn’t it?
PAUL MARCIANO : You should see what ‘s happened in the art world, ln contemporary art.
INGRID SISCHY: Yes, we know .
PAUL MARCIANO: Crazy .I mean , they are where Japan was in the mid-80s, exploding of ideas, exploding of creative, exploding of art, exploding of teenagers in the street , exploding of the economy .
INGRID SISCHY : And does this Guess extraordinary consistent message that you have created , does it work there too? You don’t have to change it?
PAUL MARCIANO : No, I don’t . We changed only one fit in Asia. We changed the fit of the garment because it’s a different body .
INGRID SISCHY : Of course.
PAUL MARCIANO :But the image, the concept , the advertising all, all consistent .