Guess who’s back in town?
The Marciano brothers are stitching together a new look inside a spacious design studio in the heart of the Fashion District in downtown Los Angeles.
Armand and Georges Marciano, who co-founded Guess with their brothers Paul and Maurice in 1981, have linked up with former Guess design director Cinzia Simone to launch upscale contemporary label GM Studio next month.
Armand Marciano, GM Studio’s head of operations, said the decision to develop a new line made perfect sense for the three partners.
“We sat down together and exchanged our ideas and we had the same common goal,” Marciano said. “It would be luxurious with very good fabric, very good construction, and most importantly, the three of us wanted to make it in Los Angeles.”
He said it was important to keep production local despite the added costs.
“There are very good artisans here,” he said. “It gives us the flexibility for reorders or turning around to react to the market. (Overseas) you have to place your orders six months in advance to receive them in time for shipping and there is a minimum quantity.”
The women’s label includes an assortment of silk blouses, wool and leather coats, premium denim, Italian leather purses, and jewelry.
GM Studio will take its style inspiration from the early 1980s and ’90s – a hot trend that’s seen retailers from fast-fashion giant Forever 21 to luxury label Saint Laurent peddling vintage-inspired looks.
But Simone, the company’s designer, said shoppers shouldn’t expect a literal take on vintage fashions. The idea is to offer women of all ages a modern interpretation of retro apparel in premium fabrics such as silk and cashmere.
“We try to be competitive with the assortment but even better than the competition as far as fabrications,” she said. “We don’t want to compete with Zara and H&M.”
And Marciano made it clear that despite Simone’s professional history and the brothers’ personal ties to Guess, the new label shares none of the same business goals or style. For instance, GM Studio has no plans to enter the world of mass-market retail.
“It’s completely different than what Guess is doing, which is distributing the brand in close to 1,800 stores all over the world,” he said. “The look is totally different and the quality that we’re giving is not the jean that is $89 or $120.”
James Dion, founder and president of Chicago retail consulting firm Dionco Inc., said success for a startup label such as GM Studio depends on its distribution.
“The level of stores that are going to be buying this are always looking for new designers and brands,” Dion said. “In a much higher-end boutique with true designer lines, where they come in a price point or two below it can be successful. If it’s the highest price in a boutique, that will be a problem.”
He said contemporary labels placed near high-end merchandise often see improved sales as many consumers believe they are getting a better deal.
But he added that the co-founders’ connection to Guess can help it appeal to retailers and consumers, even if it’s look is a stark contrast to Guess.
Armand Marciano resigned in 2003 from Guess, where he served as senior executive vice president and assistant secretary. He became head of business operations at downtown L.A. fashion label ABS by Allen Schwartz until his departure last year.
Georges Marciano– credited with introducing acid-wash denim to the world – sold his 40 percent stake in Guess to brothers Maurice and Paul in 1993. What followed were years of lawsuits and countersuits between the two parties. After losing a 2009 lawsuit in which he alleged several employees had stolen money from him, Georges was forced into involuntary bankruptcy. He moved to Montreal the next year, where he still resides.
Simone, who spent eight years as Guess’ design director, said she met with Armand and Georges in February, shortly after she left Guess. It was then the three learned of their shared love for vintage apparel and decided to create a line that incorporated that aesthetic with denim.
GM Studio has eight employees and creates its samples in-house. The clothing and accessories are all manufactured in Los Angeles.
Armand said the company is self-funded but declined to state the initial investment. Select items will be available for purchase online next month before a full line launches this fall in select luxury boutiques in the United States and Canada.
Prices range from $89 for T-shirts to about $1,900 for a large leather duffle bag.
Simone said it is important to keep pricing competitive but still offer customers the benefit of high-quality materials.
“You have to design a wardrobe that fits everybody’s needs,” she said.
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