If there’s one label that can be given to Paul Marciano—the mastermind behind Guess— it’s instinctive. How else do you explain his track record of picking relatively unknown models (Eva Herzigova, Adriana Lima Amber Heard, Kate Upton and Gigi Hadid—at age two!) and turning them into household names? Possibly most impressive of all is when asked to spill his secret to spotting a future supermodel, he simply says, “I know what I want and I don’t need any help with that.” Not completely satisfied, we dug a little deeper to find out the method to his brilliance at the 16th Annual Denim Day on Wednesday, supported by Marciano and Guess, to promote Peace Over Violence in its mission to end sexual, domestic and interpersonal violence.
Marciano’s first rule of thumb for casting models is that she “cannot have worked for any other brand. She has to be an unknown.” And what about the old adage that she has to be a certain height and weight? Not if Marciano has anything to say about it. “You [don’t] have to be short, tall, blonde, dark-haired, [or] blue-eyed. I have all of them,” he states matter-of-factly. Now in his early 60’s, Marciano still chooses the hairstylists, makeup artists and locations for each shoot.
That decisiveness applies to why he chooses to steer clear of casting or scouting agencies. Marciano gets the photos himself and looks at approximately 500 to 600 a week! As for what draws him in to a particular look? “Well, it can be a whole feature, like the eyes or the hair. When I met Eva Herzigova, she was 18, and she was like Marilyn Monroe. I didn’t think about it, I knew she was,” he says. “When I met Carre Otis, she was a model for two years in Paris and didn’t get a job…[maybe] one. I find her, and the first thing I thought was, Rita Hayworth in the ‘50s or ‘60s. That was her. It was obvious to me.”
One of Marciano’s most notable campaigns is with Claudia Schiffer, who came back to the brand for its 30th anniversary just three years ago. “When you look at her with her hair pulled back and the corset…that’s just stunning. Stunning!” he enthuses.
When talk turns to his newest Guess Girl, Gigi Hadid, Marciano’s face lights up as bright as the California sun. “I’ve shot her since she was a baby!” he boasts. “And now she’s a superstar, and I barely can book her because she’s untouchable. She’s untouchable!” We know Marciano has a talent for fresh faces, but isn’t two a little young? Nah. “She’s best friends with my daughter and my son. She is family to me. I’m still Uncle Paul to her. Since Gigi was born, I knew she was going to model for me.”
So what’s Gigi’s secret? Marciano finally divulges what makes the perfect Guess Girl. “She has to be feminine, voluptuous, sensual, confident, strong, independent, and stand for what she wants. If you knew Gigi personally, she is it. She’s a superstar.” After all, Marciano knows something about following your true path. As it turns out, he was almost a rabbi! “There were four generations of rabbis in my family, and they sent me to school to be a rabbi [when] I was nine years-old. I did not last three weeks.”