The Essence of GUESS? Wonder, Passion and Freedom

By Jordan K. Speer — May 01, 2006

Paul Marciano, one of the visionaries behind the GUESS brand, speaks up about the company's new business ventures, its diversified sourcing strategy, preparing for a PLM implementation -- and the type of adventurous, sexy spirit he looks for in a GUESS model.

Q GUESS has been a powerful brand for 25 years, but, like all apparel companies, it must deal with intense marketplace competition that shows no sign of letting up. Specifically, as the apparel industry continues to consolidate at the retail and manufacturing levels, what do you see as the key challenges -- and opportunities -- facing the company?

A The success of GUESS over the last quarter of a century has been a dream come true. The production of sexy, fashion-forward clothing and accessories, along with the development of unforgettable advertising images, have made the GUESS brand one of the most recognized brands in the world. But, as exciting as the past has been for us, we are even more excited about our future.

The strength of GUESS comes from our people, products and partners. Our licensees and distributors are an integral resource in our desire to both develop and maintain our position as a true global brand. With our combined resources and skills, we can diversify the brand with creativity and innovation. The launch of new business ventures such as the upscale Marciano label, and now the GUESS Accessories store format, allows us to capitalize on over 20 years of knowledge and experience. These exciting new concepts ensure GUESS' position at the forefront of fashion.

QGUESS started in denim and is now a full-line fashion brand. How do you see it continuing to evolve? What would you cite as the key philosophies or inspirations behind the GUESS lifestyle?

A With a touch of international flair, the all-American style of GUESS has always been original. The elements of GUESS style are defined by great attention to detail and a European passion for cut and fit. Quality and attitude set GUESS apart. Running the gamut from casual hip to downtown chic, the look of GUESS is classic, yet stylish and modern in every sense.

The GUESS customer has developed his or her own personal fashion identity, finding a balance between the fantasy of fashion and the reality of life. Smart and confident, witty and sophisticated, each is fashion conscious and a trendsetter. The GUESS customer, just like GUESS itself, is sexy, strong and chic. GUESS products and advertising images are provocative and adventurous. The essence of the company can be expressed in three words: Wonder, passion and freedom.

Though GUESS is now a global lifestyle brand, it started as a small California jeans maker in 1981. Denim is GUESS' signature fabric, and we continually push the envelope of denim design with innovative washes, distressing techniques and great fits. Customers keep coming back time and again because they know GUESS offers fits and washes that they can't find anywhere else. Today GUESS designs, markets and distributes full collections of women's, men's and children's apparel as well as accessories.

Q With respect to sourcing, how has the evolving apparel landscape led to changes in your strategy? Specifically, could you address such areas as the effects on your sourcing from recent changes to quotas and trade laws, developments in the way that you collaborate with your suppliers and expectations for the future?

A The re-imposition of quotas in China has forced the industry to maintain a well-diversified sourcing matrix. That said, our goal is to be very strategic and selective any time we add new markets or suppliers to our core vendor base. While China will clearly be the powerhouse of the future, it is critical that we maintain both competitive and strategic options. These options provide us with competitive pricing, diversified raw materials options, specialized hand/needle skills and unique wet processing expertise. Maintaining a strong presence in the Western Hemisphere is part of our strategy, enabling us to react quickly to trends and maintain tight control over our most complicated wet processed products.
Ideally we look for vendor partners capable of working as direct as possible. We expect suppliers to be development partners and have the ability to collaborate directly with our design and sourcing teams from the earliest stages of development. The implementation of a product lifecycle management (PLM) system will enable us to work progressively toward this goal.

Q "Fast fashion" is surely important to the youthful and trendy GUESS customer. What are your typical turn times, and how are you leveraging technology, from concept to consumer, to enable the company to speed and streamline its supply chain? Could you please discuss any recent IT implementations, or plans for upcoming projects, and what benefits you expect to reap from them?

A GUESS is a global brand, with retail and wholesale operations expanding rapidly throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas. Our challenge is to provide the right product assortment across multiple global marketplaces. To ensure this goal is accomplished, we have implemented a two-phase adoption calendar. The first phase delivers a comprehensive core collection, in which all markets participate. The second phase is a "fast fashion" process enabling our U.S. retail and wholesale markets to add trend-driven additions to the collection, as close to market as possible. The timing of the core collection phase varies by division, with the "fast fashion" phase taking between eight and 20 weeks, depending largely on raw materials availability.

In order to streamline data management and communications both internally and throughout our supply chain, we are in the early stages of implementing a PLM system. Ahead of configuring this system, we have worked to redefine and streamline our internal processes, roles and calendars. We expect to begin a phased rollout of this new system in the third quarter of 2006.

Q GUESS is known for its very sensual and sexy clothes -- and advertising campaigns, featuring the likes of Paris Hilton as impresario of the GUESS lifestyle. What are the qualities that you look for when choosing a GUESS model? How important is this "face" of GUESS to the image of the brand in the marketplace?

A The company's philosophy has always been to create an identifiable, strong image for the GUESS brand. With a strong image comes strong customer loyalty. GUESS created a uniquely young, sexy image in the 1980s and has stayed true to this identity over the years. For over 20 years GUESS has stood for everything that is sexy about fashion.

As far as choosing models, there is no secret -- I really choose models instinctually. The models should be fun, outgoing and extremely sexy, of course. Having said that, the right attitude is so important. Photo shoots are hard work, and the models work long hours, often getting up well before sunrise and working until well after dark. An upbeat, energetic disposition and a positive attitude translate across the photos to create a campaign that has the carefree, adventurous, sexy spirit for which GUESS is famous.

Tori Praver is the newest GUESS girl. Her natural beauty gives her photos a fresh, clean look. When I first saw Tori's test shots, I knew she could capture that look perfectly. Tori is a lifelong surfer, and she carries that passion with her in her pictures. I immediately knew that she would be able to carry on the tradition of the beautiful, sexy and confident GUESS girls of the past. Tori definitely has that certain'it factor' that it takes to be a success! n

Jordan K. Speer is senior editor of Apparel. She can be reached at jspeer@apparelmag.com.

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