Known for its L.A. style and celebrity campaigns, Guess has remained true to its heritage despite the turbulent events of 2020. The uncertain year has proven difficult for brands throughout the denim industry, and even Guess’ nearly 40-year legacy was challenged as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to Guess CEO Carlos Alberini, staying successful in the face of hardships is nothing new for the brand.
“Since Guess started 40 years ago, the company has always adapted its business very effectively to the challenges presented by the market, the environment and new customer preferences,” he said. “Throughout its entire history, this company has evolved successfully time and time again.”
Though Guess anticipated a sales rebound in the beginning of the year, it was set back in Q1 as a result of temporary closures in key global regions. To ensure financial flexibility and maintain maximum liquidity, the company drew down approximately $212 million of its credit facilities in the U.S., Canada and Europe in March, and, like many others, was uncertain of the year to come.
In June, the brand closed 100 stores in the U.S. and Canada and vowed to shift its attention to e-commerce, noting that it would be a game of catch-up for the company, as it had always relied heavily on its physical stores.
In addition to the global pandemic, the Guess executive team experienced a hardship of its own. Following a bicycle accident that required extensive rehabilitation and therapy, Guess co-founder Maurice Marciano stepped down from his position as non-executive chairman of the board. Alex Yemenidjian, who served as an independent board member for 15 years, took over as non-executive chairman.
Guess was an early signatory of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Jeans Redesign program for circularity. Despite the pandemic, the company is on track to producing the first collection of jeans designed under these guidelines in 2021—and Alberini is already preparing to apply some of the circularity lessons learned to other Guess apparel categories in the future.
2020 was also the year Guess earned accolades for its sustainability report. In August, the CR Reporting Awards (CRRA) by Corporate Register honored the brand with the award for “Innovation in Reporting” for its “FY18-19 Sustainability Report: Evolution! Change for Good.” Guess also earned first runner up for CRRA’s “Credibility through Assurance” honor.
Guess was chosen for its engaging messaging within the report, with bold graphics and brand imagery helping to clarify complicated subject matter. It was also written in accordance with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards and was available in Spanish, Chinese, French, Italian and Korean.
Presentation aside, the brand also established notable sustainability targets, committing to produce 25 percent of its denim in accordance with its own Guess Eco guideline by 2021. Within the same time frame, it also aims to have 20 percent of its overall materials portfolio certified sustainable.
The heritage brand released a series of collections based on archival designs, first dropping a Guess U.S.A. collegiate capsule collection in August featuring unisex sports designs from the ’80s and ’90s. It also debuted a Fall 2020 collection centered on its own graphics from the ’90s. Cropped T-shirts, tanks, polos and bodysuits for women and logo hoodies, track jackets, and coach jackets for men defined the nostalgic collection.
In November, the brand went a step further by introducing Guess Vintage, an online program of exclusive hand-picked certified vintage Guess goods. The program kicked off with 68 authenticated pieces spanning men’s and women’s vintage denim, crewnecks, jackets and Ts designed in L.A. between 1981, the year the brand was launched, and 1999. The launch included a celebration with influencers and editors at an outdoor Guess Vintage Seeding Suite at its L.A. headquarters.
The year was also defined by key celebrity brand ambassadors, starting with Jennifer Lopez in January, when the actress, singer and dancer signed on to be the face of Guess and Marciano for a second season. Lopez was featured in the brands’ Spring 2020 worldwide campaign, which showcased three-piece suits, printed dresses and white eyelet sets.
The brand also tapped actor Michele Morrone, best known for his starring role in the Netflix movie “365 Days,” to be the worldwide face of Guess Men’s and appear in the brand’s Fall/Winter 2020 holiday campaign. The campaign was set in Lake Como, Italy and showcased the brand’s collection of tailored menswear.
J Balvin was another celebrity Guess worked with in 2020—this time, on a collaboration that was delayed as a result of the pandemic. Though originally set to drop in March, the colorful collection of denim, Ts, swimwear and accessories was ultimately postponed to June. In hindsight, the timing may have worked in the brand’s favor, as consumers were seeking vacation-inspired fashion and rainbow palettes for Pride Month.
According to Alberini, the company will continue to find silver linings and use the challenges of 2020 as an opportunity to push its own limits.
“I strongly believe that today presents our company with yet another opportunity to transform our business and increase our earnings power,” he said. “I also believe that we have the team to accomplish this and I look forward to the years of growth to come.”