In 1981, a quartet of brothers who grew up in France set up a 700-square-foot office in downtown Los Angeles and designed a denim fashion line. They named it Guess, and it went on to become a billion-dollar brand, attached to everything from sunglasses to perfume, and a vital part of the global fashion landscape.
Guess unleashed upon the world an ingenue named Anna Nicole Smith, ankle-zip jeans and those iconic black-and-white ad campaigns featuring the sexiest supermodels of the day.
Now, two of the brothers behind the brand, Georges and Armand Marciano, who long ago put their Guess days behind them (on a side note, the publicly listed company installed a new chief executive officer last year after their brother, Paul, stepped down from the role), have recently embarked on their latest fashion venture.
GM Studio, which launched in mid-July, is what the former Guess customer might wear now that she is all grown up. It conveys the keen edgy instincts of the Marciano brothers, who have crafted the new offerings with Italian designer Cinzia Simone. Everything is made in Los Angeles and the looks are inspired by the luxe-yet-casual aesthetic that the city personifies.
For the Marciano brothers, GM Studio also represents a new beginning.
"Guess was a great adventure, but it is part of my past," said Georges Marciano, who now lives in Canada. "I left the brand in 1993 and do not feel like it represents or reflects me anymore. With GM Studio, it is most definitely a fresh start."
On a pre-launch morning, the busy, bright downtown studio was in full work mode.
"This is a collaboration between Georges, Cinzia and I," said Armand Marciano. "It has some vintage inspiration, and it was important to us that everything is made right here in Los Angeles. We are all of us from somewhere else, but we want to work where our laundries and tailors are close by."
Simone combed through Georges Marciano's vast archive of vintage pieces and took her inspiration cues from early Yves Saint Laurent (lean blazers and silk blouses) and military uniforms (large flap pockets).
Her goal was to create a wardrobe of luxury basics. For spring 2017, she was inspired by iconic musical figures such as Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison and created a line featuring stretch-washed leathers and hand-distressed T-shirts in sun-faded colors such as washed mauve and old gold.
There are feather-printed silk kimono-style dresses, blouses in Lurex-shot silk and chiffon tops with 1970s-inspired bell sleeves. Denim is an integral part of the collection. Look for vintage jeans deconstructed and turned into miniskirts and a dramatic denim cape. Prices range from $80 to $1,200, and the line is available on the brand's website and at American Rag on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles.
Ultimately, said Georges Marciano, GM Studio is the antithesis of Guess: small, limited-edition runs, a tightly enforced aesthetic. With it, he is hoping to convert people to buy clothing that is "not disposable."
"Clothes should be timeless," he said. "Today, I feel that there is a necessity to look back and take from the past more than try to foresee the future."