The Marciano name is legendary in the fashion world. Georges Marciano and his three brothers—Armand, Maurice and Paul—founded Guess jeans in 1981.
But over the years, philosophical differences forced Georges and Armand to leave one of Los Angeles’ largest apparel companies, which has grown to a $2.2 billion behemoth.
Now Georges and Armand have joined forces with designer Cinzia Simone to create a new upscale clothing brand called GM Studio that will partially launch in July with the full launch scheduled for September in time for the Fall 2016 season.
Inside their offices located in the heart of the Los Angeles Fashion District in an historic 1923 brick building, the large windows cast a warm glow on the racks of samples that are being readied for production with various Los Angeles contractors and sewing factories.
The luxe contemporary line is a mix of denim jeans and pants in various silhouettes, silk blouses, indigo/wool jackets, dresses, leather jackets and coats, leather purses and duffel bags, belts, and jewelry that are all manufactured in Los Angeles.
“When we got together, we decided we were all on the same page and wanted to manufacture in Los Angeles,” Armand said. “That was very important to us. It gives us the flexibility to react quickly, control the quality of the goods and make sure everything is perfect the way we want it.”
It was only last February that the three got together shortly after Simone left Guess, where she had been the company’s design director for eight years. Meeting at Simone’s house, the trio discovered they were all fans of vintage apparel. Simone, born in Italy, has a big collection of vintage clothing, and Georges, who lives in Montreal, has a warehouse there filled with vintage pieces he has collected over the last 30 years.
So the focus of the line is vintage-inspired retro pieces with a modern flair for a customer between the ages of 20 and 60.
The jeans, retailing for $168 to $220, will all have a mid-rise waist rather than a low-rise waist with the back of the waist designed not to go down when you sit or move. “We call it the democratic denim jean,” Simone said.
Some of the jeans have a flair leg for those who like the retro look. Other jeans will range from super-skinny pants and straight jeans to the more relaxed boyfriend jeans. Two of the styles will have ripped features. “We are not focusing on one trend,” Simone noted.
T-shirts made of Supima cotton, rayon/cotton, indigo knits and some cashmere will retail for $89 to $198.
Luxury blouses made of silk and other high-end fabrics will sell for $200 to $400 and can be mixed and matched with the blue jeans or the leather jackets and coats, which will retail for $800 to $1,900. Small clutch handbags will carry an $850 price tag in the stores, and large leather duffle bags will sell for $1,900.
Initially, sales will be online and at select boutiques, said Armand, who is head of operations.
Georges, who will be distributing the line in Canada, also has been adding his creative input and makes lots of suggestions to Simone, who communicates with the Guess founder in Montreal through email and FaceTime when he is not in town for meetings.
“The other day he showed me a picture of a bandanna scarf he saw and said he would love to make a shirt like that. So we ended up making a bandanna shirt for the collection,” Simone said.
The lightning speed in which the company has ramped up in only three months is due to the three principals’ years of experience in the industry.
Already, the company has eight employees, including one patternmaker and two seamstresses, who make all the samples in-house.
Life after Guess
After Armand sold his 15 percent stake in Guess in 2002, he joined forces with Los Angeles clothing guru Allen Schwartz to buy back ABS by Allen Schwartz from The Warnaco Group in New York. The two ran the California lifestyle clothing company together until Armand left last year.
In 1992, Georges sold his 40 percent share of the company for around $220 million to invest in commercial real estate and collect art, cars and jewelry, amassing a fortune once calculated at $500 million. He is renowned for buying in 2007 an 84-carat diamond for $16 million that he renamed the “Chloe Diamond,” in honor of his daughter Chloe.
But soon after, things went south when Georges sued several employees he was convinced had stolen from him. They countersued and in 2009 he lost his lawsuit with a judgment against him to pay the employees hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. Georges was forced into involuntary bankruptcy. His Beverly Hills mansion, two other homes, his Boeing 747 and his 11 Ferraris were sold by a bankruptcy trustee. He no longer owns the diamond.
In 2010, he moved to Montreal, where he bought a four-star boutique hotel called LHotel, housed in an historic bank building dating back to 1870 that displays some of Marciano’s extensive art collection by artists such as Joan Miró, Robert Rauschenberg, Ed Ruscha, Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol.
Last year, a legal rift erupted between Georges Marciano and his two younger brothers, Maurice and Paul, when Georges wanted to use his name in a clothing label. Guess filed an opposition with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office to any trademarked name using Georges’ full name, maintaining it could easily be confused with Marciano by Guess, one of the company’s apparel labels.
Armand said the legal dispute was resolved last year and each of the brothers can now use his full name in a label.