Behind The Collaboration: An interview with GUESS JEANS U.S.A and Places + Faces

Behind The Collaboration: An interview with GUESS JEANS U.S.A and Places + Faces

While on tour for their Guess x Places + Faces collaboration capsule, we sat down with Ciesay and Nicolai Marciano.

Ciesay (left) and Nicolai Marciano (right) in the heart of Orchard Road.

A conversation about the collaboration, the history of Guess and the importance of a story.

Collaborations seem to be popping up every week, whether it’s a new Supreme collab or a new Nike shoe with CDG or the latest Jordan iteration. There is no doubt that collaborations are desired, with two (or more) great minds working together to create unique and creative products for us consumers to enjoy. But in this day and age of collaboration saturation, what makes a great collaboration? Is it the name of the brand? The actual pieces themselves? Or is it purely the hype?

We sat down with the brains behind one of the hottest collaborations of the year to drop so far, Nicolai Marciano, Head of Collaboration for Guess Jeans, and Ciesay, Co-Founder of Places + Faces (P+F). We talked about the concept of collaborations to what they’re rocking on their feet at the moment. Check out the conversation below.

You’re here for the launch of the Guess x P+F collaboration, can you tell us how the collaboration came about?
Nicolai (N): We’ve known each other for a couple of years, we met in London about 3 years ago. We did a pop-up with (A$AP) Rocky and Ciesay, and we’re like in the same world so we’re always bumping into each other. I think the first time we talked about it was Art Basel two years ago (2017) at the Hypebeast 100 dinner, and we stayed in touch you know. Always been a big fan of Ciesay and the brand and his photography and everything he has going on y’know, so when the opportunity to do something together, something special between P+F and Guess Jeans. With how Guess Jeans has been coming into the streetwear world and how Places + Faces is in that world and how we have such a long history in advertising and photography and everything – something that Ciesay represents – kind of just fell into place.

Ciesay (C): Yeah there’s good synergy and it was the right time. We don’t do many collabs, so this collab with them made sense. With Guess’s history with their photography and how we’re a photography-based brand, I think that was one of the things that made it work and when the pieces came out we were very excited. It’s a good collab.

[pullquote class =”right”] “We don’t just want to do a collaboration just for the sake of collaborating. There always has to be some sort of storyline between what we’re doing together.” – Nicolai Marciano [/pullquote] Any particular reason as to why the collection is based around 3M and reflective materials?
N: Guess has always been in front of the curve when it comes to product innovation and development of fabrics and watches, so with P+F having a big part of their brand identity being reflection and being reflective, we saw it as an opportunity to push the conversation of how we can we keep doing something different and something no one has ever seen before. The first thing that came to mind was, “How can we get the striped shirt reflective?” y’know? I think that’s something that we developed that I don’t think I’ve seen anyone do before. So there’s 3M reflective weaved into the shirts and into the denim, it’s not just a print, it’s IN the fabric. So that’s something that’s very special, so when we saw the products and the images we were very surprised at how crazy it actually was.

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Guess x Places + Faces Collection Singapore

With that being said, has Guess has always been pushing the boundaries of how fashion technologies have evolved over the years? For example what you just said about the 3M being stitched in and it being a new thing?
N: Yeah I mean even back then in the 80s if we go back into the history of the company, we really popularized stonewash and acid wash and all these things with denim that no one had really seen before. You know Levi’s has been doing denim for hundreds of years but we came into the space and made denim fashionable, which was something that wasn’t at the time. So printed denim, putting leather with denim, keeping it interesting and different so I think this [Guess x Places + Faces] was a great opportunity to continue the legacy of innovating product from the Guess side.

So with P+F being a photography brand, reflective just came hand in hand with the collaboration I suppose?
N: Yeah of course, especially with film photography, the reflective just pops and comes out more.


C: Yeah back from when we started, we made reflective hoodies and when they would take photos they would see the branding and when you would go onto the website and look at the photos, reflectiveness has always been an important part of P+F. When it comes to photography and all that kind of stuff, whenever you shoot reflective, it can be in the daytime or it could be at night, it always just pops and always looks different to any sort of clothing. So when it came to shooting the lookbook, y’know it was all shot by myself and Soulz, we made it work. Even in the daytime the reflective still came out crazy so you know definitely some good stuff.

Guess x Places + Faces Collection Singapore

When it comes to collaborations, do you approach possible collaborators or do they approach you?
N: I think it’s a little bit of both. We’re always trying to find collaborations that have an interesting story to tell between the two parties. I always feel like the strongest collaborations are always the ones that have the strongest stories to be told together, between their brand and our brand, and how we can find the hybrid between the two to make something special and has an identity between both of the brands.

What’s the process of getting a Guess collaboration off the ground like?
N: It usually starts with a conversation, like we sit down and meet people. A lot of the people that we collaborate with are kind of our friends in the same community so it’s always identifying what’s to be done together. How can we do something different? How can we make something special? So it all depends, it can happen both ways. However, we stay selective with who and why we want to collaborate with them; keeping the integrity of their brand is very important you know? We don’t just want to do a collaboration just for the sake of collaborating. There always has to be some sort of storyline between what we’re doing together.

You’ve worked with A$AP, Sean Wotherspoon, and 88rising. What is the criteria you look for in collaborating partners? What makes a brand/person attractive to work with?
N: It really depends too. For example, Sean (Wotherspoon). I’ve known Sean for a while and it’s interesting because he’s always had a connection with thrifting and vintage. It’s such a big part of his life, with how he goes to the Rose Bowl [Flea Market] and all these places and finding vintage y’know. So we’d always kinda joke about who has the better Guess pieces between him and our archive, but he’ll always find some incredible Guess things that even I haven’t seen before. So when we were putting down out projects for 2017, with Sean it was like we had our own archive and it’s almost like he had his own archive. So I thought he would bring an interesting perspective into vintage Guess and what we can do together and that’s how we did ComplexCon 2017 together with him and Dr. Romanelli. That’s where Farmer’s Market kind of evolved from. So we sat down in 2018 and with how Sean is vegan and his connection to farmer’s market and the Rose Bowl, that’s how the whole story happened. So from there, that’s where the Farmer’s Market evolved from, from the colors to the event, pop-up tour and all.

Guess x Places + Faces

Guess x Sean Wotherspoon Farmer’s Market collection.

But on the other end with Rocky, Rocky came to us around 2014-2015 and we started to talk. Guess was a big part of him growing up in New York and Harlem. It was something that a lot of people, like his brothers and people around him, were wearing, so he always had a special connection with the brand. So we did the collaboration with him. It was bringing back the nostalgia of what he was doing and how Guess was a big part of him growing up. All of our installations were like a 90s arcade, ads from that era and with Guess being part of that whole moment, y’know being able to create these pop-ups and experiences where we were bringing the customer into the whole experience and immersing them into the concept behind the clothes. Concepts are really important because we want them to feel what the collaboration truly means to us and who we’re working with. Like for Farmer’s Market, instead of fruit stalls we have collaborators. And with Rocky, creating those moments in London and New York, it was interesting. It made them feel like it was the 90s with all the video games and everything.

[pullquote class =”left”] “With Guess’s history with their photography and how we’re a photography-based brand, I think that was one of the things that made it work and when the pieces came out we were very excited.” – Ciesay [/pullquote]Guess is a brand with a rich archive of graphics and designs. How do you keep up with what people want today without losing the brand’s heritage?
N: I think that’s what makes it interesting y’know? Especially with fashion, it’s super cool because we have a lot of pieces in the archive that are super relevant for today and you’re like, “Wow this is from 1985”. Especially our graphics. Our graphics archive is super extensive and it makes it interesting to bring in new brands and creatives to work with and how we can rework the graphics. All the graphics from this collection, the things we did for 88rising and with Sean, those are all graphics from between 1981 and 1995, which are all still very relevant today. So I think it’s kind of an interesting way to surprise people with an interesting graphic, but little do they know it’s from 20-30 years ago. So that’s something special that we can offer to people we collaborate with that most brands can’t. We really have true original designs in our heritage.

Who are some people you’d love to work with? Dead or alive.
C: Quentin Tarantino. My background was in videos. I used to work on music videos and direct them, but then I got lazy and that’s when I picked up photography. But I think I’m always gonna go back into doing videos and with P+F, until this day we’re still doing the episodes about traveling and documenting everything. So film has always been a big part for P+F too. For me personally, I’d love to go back into working on short scripts and making films and stuff, it’s always something I wanted to do.

N: I’d always wanted to something with Nike. I always think about it. When Guess was coming up, it was the same time Jordan was big, so I always think of the full outfits. Like an 85 Jordan 1 with some Guess jeans and a Coca-Cola brand type shirt. And likewise with Back To The Future, with how Nike was a big part of that because of the Air Mags, and Guess being a big part of it unofficially. So I think there’s always an interesting story there. Same with the likes of Dr. Dre and Eazy-E, where they’d wear a lot of Guess but then have Nike Cortez on their feet, so it’s always a full outfit and moment from all aspects.

What can we expect from Guess in the future? Any big names lined up for a collaboration?
N: We can’t say much right now. But from us, safe to say there will be a magazine or a book, from the tour and behind the scenes stuff. We’ll show the whole journey with Ciesay and Soulz coming to Guess, which was actually at the Farmer’s Market, and when we went through the photo archive with Paul Marciano, the clothing archive, to the development of the product, to everything. Definitely something to look forward to.

C: Just more magazines and books, more photos, more everything.

What are your favorite sneakers right now?
N: Jordan 1 Union, ACRNYM Presto, the Under Armour SRLo, Suicokes, y’know, keep it cozy. Another pair I like now is the Cav Empt 95s, the white ones.

C: Air Max 95s or the classic Stan Smith with the Velcro. The Air Max 98 collab with Supreme was my favourite, the all-black pair.

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N: We’re actually working on our first Guess shoe with Sean. It’s a Guess sports shoe from the early 90s. It’s like a classic Dad shoe. Our first Guess Sport piece that we released was a tracksuit at ComplexCon 2017, and that’s something that Sean worked on. And you know Sean has just always been super into sneakers and everything, it made sense for Sean to design into it.

If you could choose just one collaboration to wear for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
N: I’m not sure about wearing for the rest of my whole life, but I’m a big fan of the Napapijiri with Martine Rose. It’s interesting cause it’s a project run by Slam Jam, it’s kind of similar to what we’re doing, and with how Martine Rose is coming into Napapijiri, who’s like this iconic outerwear brand from Italy, and her going into the archive and reimagining what they’ve done through her lens, and I think they’re doing a really good job at that. Right now I’m wearing the P+F x Guess collab all the time and I love this kind of stuff, you know I love tactical.

C: P+F x Guess collab yea, every piece is just perfect with the reflective stuff. Perfect.

What will be the best thing to come from American or British design this year or next?
N: It’s tough you know, especially since there’s a lot of new creatives and designers coming up, especially from the US, and I think it’s just a really interesting time in fashion and culture to be alive right now. It’s hard to pinpoint one thing, but there’s a lot of great things happening.

C: A few brands coming out of the UK, like A Cold Wall (ACW) to like M+RC Noir from Paris, or like my friends who are making brands and just doing their thing.  It’s like a new era right now, like I feel the brands that are coming out now or the past 5 years and utilized the internet are gonna become the brands that have come before them. Like ACW could be the next Prada or Louis Vuitton, P+F could be the next whatever or be its own thing. I feel like the brands that are coming out now, that making a name for themselves, that are dictating the fashion and streetwear in the next 10-15 years. So it’s interesting to see.

N: One brand I feel you should look out for is Advisory Board Crystals, they’re definitely one to watch.

We can safely say that collaborations will keep on coming. They’re the moneymakers, the tastemakers of what is cool and what isn’t. But what truly makes a collaboration so important in this day and age is the story behind them. What may just seem like another striped shirt from Guess has been amplified to an important artifact of the culture that we live in today through their collaboration with Places + Faces. So next time you buy a collaboration, look into what the graphics or concept behind the pieces mean, and just maybe you’ll appreciate them just that little more than you already do.

Were you able to cop the Guess x Places + Faces collaboration? What are some of your favorite collaborations over the past years? Let us know in the comments below. 

Read more: Never go unnoticed: Guess Jeans and Places + Faces is set to deliver its Hi-Vis collection in Singapore

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