The Evolution of Guess: New Label, Accessories Lead Firm’s Retail Push

At age 22, Guess Inc. is striving to regain its footing with a new contemporary unit, accessories chain and a fresh distribution formula.

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Lee noted that publicity surrounding Hilton’s hiring referred to her as the new Guess girl, joining stars such as Drew Barrymore, Anna Nicole Smith, Eva Herzigova and Claudia Schiffer. “There’s some cachet to being a Guess model,’’ Lee said. “Marciano doesn’t mean anything to anyone at this point.”

Paul Marciano, who has been creative director for every campaign over the last 20 years, acknowledged that Hilton initially expressed interest in being the next Guess model. Hilton appears in ads for Marciano and Guess, and has been picked up for the campaign’s second round targeting the holiday season. WWD got an exclusive first look at the latest ads.

Some of the promotion for the fall and the holidays spell out “Guess by Marciano” — a point that challenges the brothers’ insistence the two will become separate entities. The juxtaposition is only for the launch, the Marcianos said. And they noted that Hilton appears mostly as the new Marciano model.

Paris or not, the consumer will ultimately determine whether Marciano succeeds without the Guess association.

“Distinguishing the merchandise by having a new name always helps gain consumer acceptance, but of course, the product has to be to their liking,” said retail analyst Walter Loeb of Loeb & Associates in New York. “And the company will need to be consistent with its new designs and respond quickly to the marketplace. That’s the key: excitement and newness.”

The brothers acknowledge the challenges. Still, they appear almost giddy over the new ventures and growth possibilities. A scent for Guess is on their to-do list for 2005.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” Paul Marciano said. “But honestly, after being at this company for 22 years, we are all so pumped up about so many new facets of the business. We know that even with what we know, there is no guaranteed solution. This is the fashion business. But I can tell you that we are giving it everything we have.”
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