Marcelo Burlon is an expert in cool, and a master of much. Already recognized from a natural progression through club kid, stylist, party promoter, publicist, and DJ, Burlon has added another certificate to his thick portfolio: creative director of his own line of luxury streetwear, County of Milan.
Sitting on a small loveseat at Holt Renfrew in downtown Vancouver and surrounded by his latest capsule collection for the store, he is almost palpably glamorous. Burlon holds that rare and coveted quality of charm with the ability to make everyone feel as if they’re his dearest friend—and he has a lot of friends. Famously close with former PR client Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy, Kanye West’s creative director Virgil Abloh, and musicians Pusha T, 2 Chainz, and Future, Burlon has a network as expansive as it is influential.
Burlon’s enthusiasm is unwavering but never over the top as he scrolls through the rack of his opulent collection, pulling out his favorites. “I wanted to express myself through the graphics, the symbols from my native country mixed with the rave culture,” says the Argentinian-born, Italian-blooded designer. The resulting aesthetic is the synthesis of pixelated and digitized native symbols of Patagonia with animal motifs and ambiguous generic “tribal” influences. Despite its sometimes glossary cherry-picking of global symbology, the line is a true visual translation of his personality: a man who has described his vice as “doing yoga every day” while simultaneously being the internationally recognized life of the party.
Throughout all the variations of his career, the one connecting element is that Burlon has always been ahead of the trend. Years before anyone had “digital strategist” on their LinkedIn, Burlon was busy creating his own multi-media collaborate. After establishing himself as a prominent self-described club kid rubbing shoulders and exchanging winks with the likes of Marc Jacobs and Jean-Paul Gaultier, Burlon moved to Milan where he pioneered what is now the basis of any good party: the email list. “No one had ever done that before in Milan,” Burlon reflects. “It brought a new way to communicate, which was really unique at the time.” Soon, Burlon was party planning and heading PR for major fashion houses such as Dolce and Gabbana and Prada, styling for the likes of GQ and serving as editor-in-chief of Rodeo Magazine.
With County of Milan, it’s clear now to see a full expression from the dynamic creative director. Burlon has expanded from a T-shirt line to develop cohesive and conceptual assemblages. In the Spring/Summer 2016 menswear collection, tailoring has been seamlessly incorporated; in the women’s offering, nods to Helmut Lang and Rick Owens fill out an excellent expansion into bold, androgynous silhouettes. But still, Burlon remains loyal to his foundation. “I’m not doing high fashion,” he says. “I’m doing streetwear. There’s an emphasis on quality, though.”
While the ever narrowing distinction between the two fashion poles can be argued, what comes across most clearly and undeniably is that County of Milan is an extension of its founder. Being so close to the project, Burlon retains a fastidious commitment to the line and those who wear it, creating in his own tight-knit scene reminiscent of his raver roots. “I’m the one answering those messages on Facebook, because I care about them,” says Burlon. “I come from the bottom; I come from nowhere, so I’m on the dancefloor with them. I’m not somewhere in the VIP section. I like to be there because I want to be there—it’s who I am.” Following the launch of Burlon’s Holt capsule collection, he DJed his own after party at Gastown’s LUMAS. No VIP section, no fancy security: Burlon truly dances the dance. Like any good party promoter understands, it’s being sincere in a business which often feels hollow that truly makes a difference—and makes the party.