Exclusive: FBI Investigating Guess Founder Paul Marciano Over Alleged ‘Sexual Improprieties’
Guess founder Paul Marciano is being investigated by the FBI for “sexual improprieties,” two sources familiar with the probe told Mediaite.
The scandal-plagued fashion mogul is being investigated over his relations with women who modeled or aspired to model for Guess, the sources said. Marciano, who founded the brand in 1981 and built it into a global fashion powerhouse, has been accused by a slew of women of sexual assault and misconduct over the last two decades. He recently settled a pair of sexual misconduct lawsuits with two former Guess models for $1 million. Marciano has vehemently denied any misconduct and did not concede to any wrongdoing or fault in those settlements.
A source who spoke to the FBI as part of the investigation told Mediaite the probe is broad in scope.
“The FBI conducted an interview with me at my house and I was shocked to hear how many people they had contacted, who all told a similar story,” they said.
A month later, the source said, the FBI special agent contacted them with an update.
“Their investigation had grown in scale as they informed me they had contacted over one hundred former and current models,” the source said. “Unfortunately, while they had confirmed the existence of widespread sex trafficking, sexual coercion, and misconduct, only a couple were willing to go on-record for fear of repercussions — both legal and reputational.”
An FBI spokesperson told Mediate: “In keeping with DOJ standard practice, the FBI neither confirms nor denies the existence of an investigation. We have no further comment.”
Eric Rose, a rep for Marciano, denied knowledge of an FBI probe: “We are not aware of any investigation of Mr. Marciano about anything. Mr. Marciano built Guess from the foundation and has devoted his life to the Company and the people working there.” Rose included in his statement a link to a site where “numerous models discuss their experiences at Guess.”
The FBI investigation comes after years of allegations leveled against Marciano by women who modeled for Guess or wanted a shot at modeling for the brand. During the #MeToo movement, a series of women came forward with claims that sparked multiple lawsuits and Marciano’s temporary departure from the top of the fashion company he founded.
He settled two lawsuits in September 2022 for a total of $1 million from two former Guess models: Amanda Rodriguez, who accused him of rape at a work meeting held at his apartment, and Gwen Van Meir, who claimed he sexually harassed her on set.
In 2021, he was sued by an aspiring model who alleged he raped her without a condom during a meeting in 2013 held under the guise of potentially modeling for the company. Another woman who worked for his boutique in the 1980s accused him of forcing her to perform oral sex when he offered her a ride home from work.
Supermodel Kate Upton spoke out publicly against the Guess founder in 2018, claiming he had assaulted her the first time they met for a shoot. After her allegations Marciano briefly stepped down as executive chairman of Guess. But his retirement was short-lived: Marciano remained at the company, and in 2022 returned to its board in defiance of efforts to oust him and his brother.
Despite the public allegations and the hefty settlements doled out as a result of Marciano’s behavior, one fashion industry heavyweight told Mediaite the misconduct continues to this day.
Chris Applebaum — a celebrity photographer and director who has shot Guess models during his career and claimed in 2021 that he witnessed Marciano sexually harass models — alleged to Mediaite that the harassment is an ongoing problem.
“Even after everything has come out I continue to have models tell me that they’ve been groped or put in a compromising situation, with the expectation that this is what needs to be done to become a Guess girl: take care of Paul,” Applebaum said.
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