The subsidiary of Guess Inc. is betting that the in-demand Los Angeles creative will lend cachet to its new line of ‘premium-priced’ archive-inspired wears.
An image from the upcoming Guess USA campaign, shot by Eli Russell Linnetz.(Guess)
Guess USA — a separate arm of the Guess Inc. business that sells premium-priced products and one-off collaborations — has tapped fashion multihyphenate Eli Russell Linnetz for a creative partnership, which sees Linnetz shooting campaign imagery for a new premium product line.
The goal of the partnership with the CFDA-nominated Linnetz — who has completed creative projects with Kanye West, Kim Kardashian West and Lady Gaga — is to “reestablish who we are as a company,” said Guess USA division head Nicolai Marciano, who is the son of Guess co-founder and chief creative officer Paul Marciano.
This project will include a marketing campaign, shot by Linnetz, and a line of products, designed by Marciano, that tap the company’s 40-year-old archive and will be available for purchase beginning this fall. The resulting collection, which includes shearling distressed denim jackets, embellished suede corset tops and fringed leather blazers, is intended to evoke “sexy Americana,” Marciano said.
“Everyone’s dancing around all this stuff and have trouble being super sexy or provocative,” Linnetz said of his vision for the campaign. “Guess was so sexy in … advertising, so I definitely wanted to do something like that.”
Milan-based speciality fashion retailer Slam Jam will be the exclusive retailer for the collection, where it will be sold alongside brands like Nike, Stussy, Sacai and Kiko Kostadinov.
Guess USA has centred much of its strategy around limited-edition collaborations, including separate projects with rapper A$AP Rocky, two with skate brand Babylon LA (in which Guess converted a parking lot outside its Los Angeles offices into a skatepark to commemorate the accompanying collection) and Latin musician J Balvin. Marciano said that the division is not subject to “serious pressure business-wise.”
Linnetz said Marciano gave him creative freedom to create the campaign after a lengthy courting process spent convincing Linnetz that the Guess archives were ripe with inspiration. The duration of the partnership with Linnetz is still undetermined. (“It depends how much they pay me,” said Linnetz.)
Looming in the background are questions over the elder Marciano’s role in both Guess USA and Guess Inc. after the emergence of a number of sexual harassment allegations, which first surfaced in 2018, and associated legal battles.
Paul Marciano gave his son “carte blanche” to work on the Guess USA project, the younger Marciano said, but also met with Linnetz in Los Angeles as discussions for the partnership were underway.
“The company refutes these claims fully and is contesting them vigorously,” Guess Inc. chief executive Carlos Alberini said in a statement. “We strongly believe these matters will be appropriately adjudicated in due course. We are excited about these partnerships and this project and confident in the strength of the Guess brand.”
When asked whether Slam Jam had any concerns in working with Guess USA given the publicity around Paul Marciano, Slam Jam marketing director Carlo Alberto Tinelli said, “We started a friendship and the project got created very naturally with mutual respect. We got the chance to visit the guys in LA, meet with [Linnetz], so he was really starting … a great friendship and dialogue. We’re very excited because it feels like it’s always been like that. We’re very happy for the partnership.”
Guess Inc. posted declining revenues from 2020 to 2021, particularly in its Americas business, and its stock is down nine percent in the last year. In its third-quarter earnings call in November last year, Alberini named Paul Marciano as leading the “critical initiative” of innovation at the company, which he added is on track to double its margins and profit from pre-pandemic levels.