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Marcelo Burlon, ten years later

Backstage at his show, the designer talks about himself on the occasion of the brand's 10-year anniversary

Marcelo Burlon, ten years later Backstage at his show, the designer talks about himself on the occasion of the brand's 10-year anniversary
Jeremy French

There is something about deserted places that makes them seem ten times bigger. It was at a deserted football field that I caught up with Marcelo Burlon to interview him, sitting on the grass at sunset after the show commemorating his brand's tenth anniversary, along with his dogs, Noa and Reina, whom he made drink water from the hollow of his hand. «I don't go dancing like I used to», he tells me while recalling his beginnings in Riccione first and at Magazzini Generali in Milan later. «I'm making a private club in my home to have my more intimate parties. Because I'm looking for that anyway, something a little more intimate». Thoughts of the places Marcelo calls home, Ibiza and Patagonia, keep coming back during our chat: «My homes are made to welcome people»  says talking about his private life, away from the chaos of fashion. «The goal is to tighten the circle», he says, «with social media you kind of belong to everyone». But this process of seeking more personal horizons actually began even before the pandemic, with the expansion of Marcelo's activities outside fashion tout court: «I already do other things: I have a foundation, and many other things I'm pursuing. Branding is one of those». No use worrying too much about a future you don't know, for someone like Marcelo in life you navigate by sight. «I don't predict anything, I don't have any kind of future vision. I've always done that - it's intuition, instinct», he tells me. «If it was enough for the last ten years it will be enough for the next ten», I answer. «I hope not», he replies, shaking his head. «That's a long ten years. I don't want to be 55 years old and still be running on the catwalk».

The future, in fact, does not exist. There is only the present: the distant noise in the Velodrome backrooms of the show's models dancing and drinking Bulldog & Tonic telling each other about the evening's plans, the technicians dismantling the immense blue installation that dominates the entire Velodrome, the calm after the show's storm. The collection that went on stage half an hour before our interview was different from the flashy side of the Marcelo Burlon that most of the audience knows: there were colorful knitwear, crocheted beanies, patchwork jeans, bangs, kimono jackets, relaxed fit men's suits. «There is Patagonia, Ibiza, psychedelia, wings, maxi t-shirts that stood for that we were born as a t-shirt brand», said Marcelo speaking about the collection. «All the things you find in the collection are all items that we also use. The evolution more than anything else is figuring out what we like to have in our wardrobe». Which raises the question of where, ten years after its inception, the brand stands in a post-streetwear fashion world. «It's different because you grow up and realize that you don't have to lose yourself too much. Before it was "Let's do forty different pritns." Now it's not like that anymore, because it's a waste of money, time and energy. Everything is much more focused. But it's still good, you always keep learning. When a company gets so big coming in so many people still teach you a whole lot». Yet, I point out to him, he himself said that the brand's streetwear soul has remained a signature of the brand over the years: «It is not that streetwear no longer exists; streetwear remains. But a suit can easily be streetwear. It depends on how you present it». 

Things change. The most obvious of all, clearly, is that over the course of ten years the brand has gone from underground phenomenon to global empire. «Beyond the business part, there is a sentimental part. Everything I have always done I have done from the heart. I've never compromised, I've always done everything out of passion. Of course the company puts stakes, goals. Consequently regardless of inspiration you have to fill in boxes, bring homework. These stakes are a stimulus: growing the company even in economic terms is good for everyone; creatively speaking I have no obstacles fortunately. I'm in charge of the brand». More than evolution, however, it would be correct to speak of maturation. The team may expand, the body may grow, but the heart remains the same and throbs in the same way: «Ninety-five percent of the brand is me. The brand is all the experiences I've had all these years. Clubbing, styling, events, the PR - everything I have learned I have poured into the brand. The show itself is designed by me. The concept is mine. It's what I like, it's where I vent the best».

The most noticeable thing, however, net of ten years in the fashion scene, at the center of its changes, is that Marcelo is too fulfilled with his life to be seduced by an industry he already has the satisfaction of having changed: «We imposed ourselves, we built our own rules without standing by the rules of the market. We were the ones who at some point decided how things work - at least in our group. And it worked, and our model was taken by other companies, who realized that it worked». After all, with New Guards Group, with streetwear, the history of fashion was written: «We do not stand at a distance from the public but are part of the public. This started with us. Before, designers were untouchable, unreachable. [...] We entered head-on into a world that was old, that was dated. People were asking, "Who is behind Marcelo? How does he do it? How does this strategy work?" But there is no strategy whatsoever, because I was just living my life as it was, targeting a niche audience that became popular with the brand. And as a result we pioneered a lot of things like using social to promote both our events and our brands. There was a wave that turned the whole thing upside down. The industry has adapted to us».