Thomas Meyer—genial, yet reserved and reclusive—is not the kind of figure you’d picture leading Desigual, the Barcelona-based apparel brand known for its undie parties (more below), picante pattern-mixing, and youthful vibe. Then again, this is a brand with a logo that spells its name backward, and in reverse. At Desigual, which means “unequal” or “different” in Spanish, the unexpected is part of the DNA.
Meyer, 63, of Swiss ethnicity but raised in Barcelona, founded the brand in 1984. Stuck with excess denim, Meyer dreamed up what would become the brand’s “iconic” jacket, one of the earliest examples of upcycled fashion, made from scraps of patchworked jeans.
The brand grew into a global powerhouse, with 500-plus stores in more than 90 countries. Bold marketing, like their “half naked” sales, offering free merch to underwear-clad shoppers, drew scads of young people in skivvies lined up outside shops from New York to Rome to Prague. But soon after the investment firm Eurazeo purchased a stake in the company in 2014, revenue faltered. Meyer reportedly paid $160 million to buy back the firm’s shares in 2018, retaking full control. A year later, he set a new course, unveiling that cheeky logo—like a mirror image, designed to be read in selfie mode on cellphones—and a “Forwards Is Boring” ad campaign.
True to his logo, he’s moved forward by looking back. This year, he launched a new capsule collection from acclaimed designer Christian Lacroix, who has collaborated with Desigual since 2011. And he’s doubling down on sustainability goals; this season’s “Love the World” line features upcycled pieces in Desigual’s signature patchwork, made from secondhand denim and other organic, recycled fibers.
In a rare moment with the press, Meyer sat down with RESIDE®, via Zoom, from his sunny offices overlooking the Mediterranean.