The beginning of advertising and GUESS campaigns –with no budget
SANDY BRANT: How did you know what the company would stand for? Did you have an image in your mind of the kind of woman that you would create clothes for?
PAUL MARCIANO: Oh, that ‘s another story. That ‘s another story. My first shoot was in Venice . I met this nice guy and said, “I want to do some pictures,” and I did pictures in a studio.
SANDY BRANT: But wait a minute. How did you know you needed to do pictures to tell the story?
PAUL MARCIANO: Oh, because we had French product mixed with our Guess jeans , like suede red jacket, gorgeous shoes from France and Italy . And I will send you the pictures of that . Stunning . Stunning, and nobody had that look. I said, “We have six stores. We have to let people know that we have this product.” So what did I do? I looked for LA Weekly, which was a giveaway newspaper.
SANDY BRANT: Yeah . But a great one, though . I remember LA Weekly.
PAUL MARCIANO: You remember LA Weekly? Then I went to not so expensive magazines, and I looked for trendy magazines, where the page was like $2,000 or $3,000 and advertise in those.
INGRID SISCHY: The local ones? The local LA?
PAUL MARCIANO: Local, and also I think in ’82 or ’83 I started to advertise in W. I love W for the simple reason of the size of the paper. You remember, it was huge?
INGRID SISCHY: Yeah, huge . Huge.
PAUL MARCIANO: And who ran that? Michael Coady, who became my friend. I went to Michael Coady and said, “I need to buy a page, but I don’t have the money for it .” He said, “Well, what do you want me to do?” I said, “I want you to give me credit and trust me that I will pay you, but I can’t pay for the pages because I want multiple pages.”
He said, “You want multiple pages?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Not only one page?” I said, “No, I want multiple pages.” [LAUGHTER]
SANDY BRANT: How did you know what this company meant?What did it stand for?
PAUL MARCIANO: I had no idea . Yeah, but you know , when we lost basically all our savings in these two buildings in Century City because — I’ll refresh your memory — in 1981 the interest rates were 21%, if you remember. You remember this?
INGRID SISCHY: Yes.
PAUL MARCIANO: Google interest rate 1980/1981, you ‘re going to see what it is, 21% to 22% . The bank took everything back from us.
INGRID SISCHY: So you had five stores and then the bank took them back?
PAUL MARCIANO: No, the stores were separated from the building . The building we paid the land and the construction and we didn’t sell one single apartment , not one.And we lost everything. So the few millions we had, wound up to be zero. So now we have $100,000 left between the three of us, Armand, and our stores. That was it. And our stores, you don’t have — you have the merchandise, which was all of our friends were giving us product and we had the manufacturing, which was linked to the business. So that ‘s what it was.
As I explained to you, we went to the bank and we said, “We are five stores . We have this idea. We want to do that,” and they lent money to us .If it wasn’t for the bank, Guess wouldn’t have existed — ever .
INGRID SISCHY: And so Sandy is trying to get at this thing which is how did you know that kind of woman , that kind of man? Earlier, I tried to point at it with this whole thing about the outsider and the adventurer and the rebel . How did you know it —
PAUL MARCIANO: It ‘s very simple to tie up. All the films and movies that I loved, the Clint Eastwood, the James Bond — I was obsessed with Sean Connery and all the James Bond girls at that time, 1964, ’66, ’67. You remember that?
SANDY BRANT : Of course.
PAUL MARCIANO : That was the 60s. All that stayed so vivid in my head .Ursula Andress coming out of the water with a knife on her side with a white wet suit, I mean, it was phenomenal . I had dreams about her. I mean , dreams and dreams and dreams about her.But it stayed everything – I have no memory of name. I have memory of visual — of things I see 5, 10, 20, 30 years, 40 years before I can instantly locate and place what, where and when I saw that. Everything — it’s in my head. I cannot.
My obsession with Brigitte Bardot , Ursula Andress, Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren – My vision of what I wanted the Guess image to be, never changed as of today .
INGRID SISCHY: That woman.
PAUL MARCIANO: You would tell me why you want to do a Guess image? Because day one, the success of Guess was so strong that immediately my instinct was to convince my brothers — we were making such a profit — to let me build something that would last beyond the product . The product has a life cycle and an end . An image will not end .
Maurice was a big advocate for me on that . He was my biggest supporter. George was skeptical . Why do you want to spend that money, on and on. And George was older.He was basically the boss — not for that long, but he was basically the boss. In early ’82 I had one photographer , who I was obsessed with . It was the guy who shot Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren — Bruce Weber . I contacted Bruce Weber and said, “I would like to meet you .”He came and he met me on the basement of the 60th street store in New York.
He got there and he said, “You don ‘t have an office?” I said, “No.” He said, “Where are we going?”I said, “In the basement of the store .” We go under the store, underground , and we have a meeting there. I was like 29.
I said, “I am the biggest fan of you. I love your pictures. I love your campaign for Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. They are so, so strong and so different .I would like to work with you .”He said, “What are you doing?”I said, “Well , we started this company called GUESS and this and that,” and he said , “Well, I mean , you do jeans?” I said, “Yeah , but we are completely different than Calvin Klein . You do Brooke Shields with a very clean look and all that . We want something different . I would like to do that with you .”
He said, “Okay , just contact my agent ,” who was Nan Bush . I contacted Nan Bush and she said , “What is your name .” I said, “paul Marciano.” “What is the name of your company?” I said, “GUESS.” She said, “I don ‘t know .”I said, “No, the name of the company is Guess.”I said, “That’s the name of the company. She said, “The name of your company is Guess?” And I said, “Yes .” She said, “How old is your company .”I said, “One year .” She said, “Then how did you come up to contact Bruce Weber?” I said, “Because I saw his advertising in W magazine and I love the size of his pictures and I love his pictures for Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, and I want to work with Bruce.”
She said, “Okay, but you know that he’s very expensive?” I said, “What do you call expensive?” She said, “He ‘s like $50,000 for the day .” I said, “$50,000 for the day?” She said yes . I said, “That ‘s my budget for the year of advertising.” She said, “Well, I cannot — I mean , this is what it is.” She said, “It’s $50,000 for him . Then you have to pay the model . Then you have to pay the hair stylist and the makeup and the production .”I said, “What is all that?” She said, “It’s the budget that we have with Calvin Klein, with Ralph Lauren and I don ‘t think you can afford us .” I said , “Clearly , I don ‘t think I can afford you”. So I went back and I was bummed . A year later, I met the guy in LA. You are not going to believe that. He is a photographer and what does he do? He works in a furniture store with his family and he just started photography.
SANDY BRANT: Ah, of course.
PAUL MARCIANO: So, 1983, I met Herb Ritts and we started to do incredible pictures . You know the rest of the story. Only a few years later he started to explode in 86, ’87, but not before. You would have a hard time to find pictures of Herb Ritts in ’83.
INGRID SISCHY: And he was your first — would you say he is your first campaign?
PAUL MARCIANO: Wayne was my first and then Herb Ritts. Instinct, very much instinct, timing because I believe there is a timing issue here, that it’s destiny that I met these people . I strongly believe in destiny. It’s no accident.
SANDY BRANT: This is a great gift .
PAUL MARCIANO: When I say instinct, when I say I walk in a room and I smell a room , I smell a room. It’s literally that . When I meet somebody, anybody, the minute I met Pablo — and I think it was through you that I met Pablo Alfaro because he was always hanging with Bruce Weber and I think you mentioned his pictures and I saw his pictures.
SANDY BRANT: You saw one picture in the magazine and you asked about him . It was a man in a red shirt .
PAUL MARCIANO: It was this guy at the pool. Do you remember that? Some guys at the pool?
SANDY BRANT: Yes .
PAUL MARCIANO: I saw the picture and i said, “My gosh, his pictures are amazing. And you said, “But it’s really not his job. It’s his hobby . He’s a real estate broker.” I said I wanted to meet him. The minute I met him , I fell in love with … to see this guy had an incredible passion, an incredible belief in what he does.
We go back to these values that anyone I met always had a strong, strong drive of beginning something new, being on the unknown and saying we can do something together. And the thing with Bruce was, in ’82, he was already so established. He was the name in a magazine. Of course, it was added on and all that, but I didn’t even go there. I mean, I am talking he was an upcoming superstar in ’81. I’m talking like 30 years ago.
And I think he’s my age, or maybe three or four years older . I’m 60, so he must be like 62 or 63, something like that — or maybe my age. Also, the reality was that my budget was very restricted in the sense that I could not afford to take any superstars. And by the way, when I talked to Nan Bush , she said, “The pictures belong to Bruce Weber, ” and I did not know what she meant.I said, “What does that mean?” She explained to me that we do the campaign and the pictures belong to him . It’s for you for a year, but after. that it’s his picture.You cannot have them unless you pay again. I said, “Okay .”
That was enough of an eye opener for me .So from pure common sense, which is a very big rule for me — common sense — I decided that there had to be some people who were in my position in ’82, beginning something new, having a passion to create something new, ready to work for basically nothing and create something big together — something that would last. My idea from day one, was that anybody who would work with me, would have the same understanding as me. And that’s what we did.
The big , blg break after that was how I ended up all that, don ‘t forget, I was shooting in the studio. I shot with Herb Ritts outside in – her name was Isabelle Townsend, I think her name was. She was a sweet girl. And after that the big break was when I decided to shoot on location on a beach . You go now about 1986, I think.
INGRID SISCHY: Is that when you found Wayne?
PAUL MARCIANO: Wayne.
INGRID SISCHY: And how did you find him?
PAUL MARCIANO: So this is the story. The Santa Monica store had a hairdresser next to it — Jose Eber . You know Jose Eber .
INGRID SISCHY: Yes . Elizabeth Taylor ‘s hairdresser.
PAUL MARCIANO: Exactly . And then the hairdresser, my friend, named Lauren and the makeup artist was this sweet, cute, beautiful girl, Leann Nealz . Leann Nealz is a makeup artist and I mean, you should know the job she has today .
She is the president of Juicy Couture . But Leann Nealz was a makeup artist. We became friends when I went to get my hair cut there. I never went out with her, but she was really a super-beautiful girl and we became like brother and sister right away .
One day she said, “You know, you did pictures here and there with Herb Ritts for this.” She said, “Why don’t we do a campaign our way? I said, “What do you mean° I said, “I would like to do a campaign outside but not with what you see in magazine black — what you see in a magazine, but completely different .”I said, “What ‘s that?” She said , “I would like to do — I would do the makeup . I would do the hair. I would do everything . We don’t have any budget and I have a photographer.” I said, “Have you done that before?” She said no. I said “Did you do any campaign before?” She said, “No. “I said, “So what do you know about it?” She said, “Well, I will try it with you .” I said, “Okay .” So I said , “Who is this guy?” She said, “He works at Universal Studios.” I said, “What does he do?” He does cover albums for singles and bands.” I said, “Does he do fashion?” She said, “No .” I said, “Never?” She said, “No .” I said, “So why you want me to work with him?” She said, “Well, he would like to do it for free .”I said , “For free? I like that .”
And so he worked for free .I worked for free everyday.
So we went and we have one model, Diedre Maquire. Super-short hair? Why short hair?
Everybody has long-haired girls, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and the big deal of Calvin Klein was Brooke Shields. And she was phenomenal — gorgeous. And we said, “We are going to be completely different .” So we went and shot in Laguna Beach. After two hours the police arrive. You know the story .
INGRID SISCHY: I love it. But the world doesn’t know the story, so do it.
PAUL MARCIANO : So two police arrived and said , “What are you doing?” We said, “We are shooting some pictures,” and that’s it. It was like Saturday morning, I think .
They said, “Do you have a permit,” and we said, “No . What permit? “So he said, “You need to have a permit .”So I looked back to Leann and I said, “Leann, do you know that we need a permit?”She said , “No” And I look at Wayne and I said, ‘Wayne , do you know we need a permit?” He said, “No.” We didn’t know. He said, “Well, you need a permit . It ‘s Laguna Beach . You cannot be on the beach . You have to have a permit.” He said, “You have an hour to pack and go. “I said, “Okay.”So we take another two pictures. We pack and we go.” We went to Huntington Beach and did the same story. We arrived . We unpacked. We had two cars, my two cars, which was a Mustang convertible that I paid $3,000 for, and my Golf car convertible, and we packed everything in them — the manager, the model, the photographer, Leann and me. So three people in each car. We had everything in the car, in the trunk. I mean, like a bohemian .
We go to Huntington Beach and half an hour later, the police arrived . “What are you doing?” We are shooting pictures .”For what?” We have five stores . We just do a little catalog for customers. “You cannot do that . Do you have a permit?”No. “Leann, do you know we need a permit” “no” we look and they said “well you cannot do it guys, you need a permit.”And we said, “We don ‘t have any business. We just have five stores. We are taking pictures on the beach. What’s wrong with that?” He said, “You can do that if you have a permit.” And we said, “We don’t have a permit.”He said, “You have to go.”So we packed and left.
We went to another beach and the same thing happened. So in all that, we took like six or eight pictures and went home .I have pictures from that shoot .
INGRID SISCHY: How great.
PAUL MARCIANO : It ‘s incredible . So, what was different in that shoot? The shoot had basically no makeup? The models had super-short hair, so we didn’t have much hair to do. The clothes were all wrinkled and Leann put some dirty sand on the clothes. We put that in the pictures. People — we put that in the page in W. No one had ever done that. No one. We were the first ones to do it because all the campaigns — Sassoon jeans , Jordache jeans, Gloria Vanderbilt, Bonjour jeans, all that were the perfect face of the studio pictures, the type of knockoff of Avedon and all that with the fan blowing the hair . We had nothing like that. We had real-live pictures of someone wearing jeans at the beach. People went crazy. Our clothes were amazing. We wore so many different clothes than everyone else . We stopped to mix fabrics. After that we shot a girl named Michelle. Now we go one step further. I think it was 1984. What year did I tell you that I met Wayne? It was 1983.
INGRID SISCHY: Yeah, ’83 is what you said . Yes.
PAUL MARCIANO: Yeah, just after Herb Ritts . So we tore the garments up . My brothers went crazy.They said, “Why did you do that?” I said, “That ‘s a start .” They said, “We gave you regular clothes. You … the T-shirt. You … the shirt. You … the pants. There were holes everywhere. “I said, “That ‘s what Leann wanted to do and I like it .” They said, “You are out of your mind. We cannot do that. How are we going to sell?” I said, “It’s not the garment . We sell the image.” I said, “But look, we are selling a feeling, an atmosphere. “They said, “You are not selling anything .We want to sell our clothes as the art.” I said, “But that’s not what I want to do as an image .” They can find that in a store. A big argument — big.
Look at the pictures of the first decade in color with the girl running in stonewashed jeans with a hat and gloves . You are going to see the garments are torn . In ’84, we were like 10 years ahead of the trend . What ten years? 15 years ahead of the trend with all these destroyed jeans and all that that came in the late 90s.So that was a big one.
INGRID SISCHY : And you were doing it for a feeling, right?
PAUL MARCIANO: Absolutely.