In a new lawsuit filed earlier this week, an unnamed model accused fashion retailer Guess of enabling her rapist, claiming the company knew of co-founder Paul Marciano’s habitual predatory behavior—including his use of a “rape room”—but did nothing to protect women.
The plaintiff, identified anonymously as Jane Doe, said that Guess knew of “at least seven women” who were assaulted or sexually harassed by Marciano over the years but still allowed him to remain at the company “because Guess prioritizes profits over the safety of its models,” noting that the company brought him back after he resigned in 2018 due to sexual-misconduct allegations.
Indeed, Marciano—who founded Guess Jeans in 1981 alongside his brothers—stepped down as executive chairman of the board in June 2018 after the company paid half-a-million dollars worth of settlements to several women who accused him of sexual harassment.
Months earlier, supermodel Kate Upton took to social media to say it was “disappointing that such an iconic women’s brand” was “still empowering” Marciano as their creative director. She would later allege that Marciano assaulted her when she was only 18, claiming he groped her, grabbed her breasts, and forcibly kissed her. Marciano, meanwhile, called Upton’s accusations “absolutely false.”
Despite its own internal investigation concluding Marciano exercised “poor judgment” when working with models, and that he placed “himself in situations in which plausible allegations of improper conduct could, and did, arise,” the company quietly announced in January 2019 that it would renew Marciano’s contract and retain him as chief creative officer. (Marciano remained a board member after he resigned as chairman.)
“It is common practice for companies to welcome back men accused of sexual misconduct,” anti-sexism educator and attorney Adrienne Lawrence told The Daily Beast. “These companies are leveraging several facts, namely that the public will not stop patronizing their business on account of their association with the accused. These companies also know that most instances of sexual misconduct are he said/she said or that the evidence was not adequately preserved making it difficult for the woman to successfully prove her case.”
In her suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court and first reported by Law360, Doe—who is represented by celebrity attorney Lisa Bloom—says it was Guess’ decision to keep Marciano around that led to her assault. His continued position with the company provided him access to her and other models and allowed Marciano to get “her alone in his rape room on the pretense of advancing her modeling career, and sexually assaulting her there, leaving her emotionally devastated and suicidal,” Doe alleged.
In a statement to The Daily Beast following this article’s publication, Guess wrote: “Guess?, Inc. (the “Company”) is aware of a lawsuit filed recently containing allegations of improper conduct by the Company and Mr. Paul Marciano, a director and Chief Creative Officer of the Company. The Company disputes these claims fully and will vigorously defend the case in court.”
The plaintiff’s complaint against Marciano and Guess contains more than a dozen claims, including sexual assault, sexual harassment, infliction of emotional distress, and false imprisonment.
Doe, a former Guess model, describes how Marciano allegedly enticed her to an empty apartment in February 2020 on the promise of career opportunities. It was there, she claims, that Marciano forced her to perform oral sex on him. After the assault, per Doe’s complaint, Marciano promised her more Guess modeling gigs and gave her a $1,000 Guess gift card.
“It is appalling that Guess brought Marciano back and that he continues to have unfettered access to models, with the ability to make or break their careers,” Bloom told The Daily Beast. “Marciano should have been fired in 2009, when the first complaint was filed. He should have been fired in 2018, when six more women went on the record with serious claims of sexual harassment and assault. He should be fired now. Instead, it is my client who is out of work, destroyed, after her complaint against him.”
Doe additionally alleges that she submitted a complaint to Guess’ human-resources department in September 2020, in which she laid out additional allegations that Marciano made numerous unwanted sexual advances on her for years, including an instance of groping.
After receiving the complaint, Doe claims, the company, Marciano, and her modeling agency met without her to discuss the allegations and offered to give her higher-paying modeling gigs if she decided not to pursue a lawsuit. After she refused to accept the offer, she says her modeling agency stopped booking her.
Guess, meanwhile, would later tell Doe that they found no evidence of sexual harassment or assault, even though they did not interview her. She claims they then offered her more money and gigs at the same meeting.
“I have suffered unbearable pain that I desperately want to protect other women from experiencing as well,” she said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “I hope by sharing my story, I will be the last.”
Doe also told The Daily Beast that she filed her suit because the company’s “disregard for my experience and pain left me feeling even more alone and afraid,” adding that they’ve “continuously turned a blind eye to Paul Marciano’s actions and allegations over the years.”
She concluded, “I want him to be stopped and finally face consequences for these serious and continuous allegations. I would love to see him removed from Guess and I would love for the company that has always claimed to be about women's empowerment to finally start empowering women.”
Marciano’s reputation as an alleged sexual predator, meanwhile, is hardly a secret in the fashion world.
Besides previous claims that led to out-of-pocket settlements, many in the business said they’ve kept their models away from him over fears of potential abuse and assault.
“We have stopped a lot of our younger girls from working with him,” one New York-based model agent told The Daily Beast. “Just to clarify, we still have girls working with him, but they are older, and we make them aware of his reputation beforehand.”
The agent continued: “The younger girls may not be able to handle themselves as well as the older ones. Fortunately, he has lost some of his power. I know some of his power has been stripped, but he is still an owner.”
A Los Angeles-based photographer further said to The Daily Beast that Marciano “does this with everyone,” adding that the Guess founder “has a recruiting system” that they know “two girls that had sex with him via the recruitment.”
The New York agent, meanwhile, went as far as to compare Marciano to the most infamous figure of the #MeToo movement, predicting a similar downfall to that of former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who was sentenced to 23 years in prison for rape and assault.
“It will happen to Paul eventually,” the agent said.