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Marcelo Burlon

Marcelo Burlon is the DJ/designer making his mark on Milan

‘We don’t go down the street to copy or to take inspiration – we are the street’

Chances are, Marcelo Burlon is one name you’ve been hearing a lot more of lately. Although the DJ-slash-designer was born in the Patagonian countryside, his family relocated to Italy as a teen – where Burlon spent an adolescence coming of age in nightclubs. He then worked for two decades as an events planner in Milan, organising “dinners, openings, art exhibitions – from Chanel to Marc Jacobs and Margiela to Versace parties at Donatella’s house.” After that, a successful career as a DJ saw him build a sizeable following, and in 2012 he expanded into clothing – now showing during fashion week, his label Marcelo Burlon County of Milan has had memorable shows with performances by the likes of Abra and Mykki Blanco. Not to mention the notorious after parties.

Collaboration is key to Burlon’s creative output. While his own label – which is heavily inspired by his Patagonian heritage – has teamed up with brands like Kappa and Reebok, Burlon himself is one of the forces behind New Guards Group, a kind of streetwear production force founded with Davide de Gilio and Claudio Antonioli. Together, they work with brands such as Virgil Abloh’s Off-White, Heron Preston, Palm Angels and Unravel, helping rule-breaking new creative directors bring their ideas into being. Oh, and come September 13th, Burlon will be able to add ‘reality TV star’ to his CV – having spent a month and a half in the Philippines to film a series of the Amazing Race. So, you can imagine his diary is pretty empty. Not.

Along with an editorial photographed by Benedict Brink, styled by John Colver and starring Judah Lang from the Autumn 2017 issue of Dazed, we caught up with Burlon to talk about his club kid youth, accidental DJ career and how he wanted his label to be more than just a one night stand.

What was it like moving to Italy from Patagonia?

Marcelo Burlon: Imagine growing up in the countryside in Patagonia in the mountains and lakes and suddenly you find yourself in a totally different culture. It was quite tough actually, my parents sold everything – we worked in the shoe factories on the weekends, or my mother and I used to go and clean up hotel rooms. I had to be an adult at an early age. But then when I was 16 I started going out to clubs and then a club asked me to work for them; it became my full-time job. I became a club kid – it was the time of ecstasy and house music, it was just a beautiful moment. It opened my mind at very early age and helped me a lot with my personality as well.

What kind of clothes were you wearing at the time?

Marcelo Burlon: Many people used to fly in for the weekend because we had the best DJs in the world, and that particular area was a manufacturing area for designers. So you could go out on Saturday nights at the club and you would be wearing Junior Gaultier and suddenly you see Jean Paul Gaultier on the dance floor. And we all had bleached hair because it was the Madonna, the Gaultier moment. Then there was Helmut Lang, the beginning of Margiela, we were all following those conceptual designers at the time. We used to listen to Björk, and she came over once for this amazing performance. It was beautiful moment growing up like that.

Do you remember what it felt like when you were first on those dancefloors?

Marcelo Burlon: You felt completely free. There was a code on the dance floor, the attitude was quite amazing. There were no phones, whereas today people taking their phones for pictures for media the whole time. It was totally different. The way we used to connect with the music was totally different.

How did you become a DJ?

Marcelo Burlon: I did like 20 years of events, and then me and a friend decided to just make our own party and just play the music that we like. So we launched a party called ‘I pretend to be a DJ’ and we used to invite people who didn’t know how to DJ but who had such amazing taste in music and fashion. But then I started properly DJing all around the world, and when social media came up and I started building an international network through that. From there, I decided to launch my brand. I wanted something more than just a one night stand, and I wanted to tell my story through the graphics in my t-shirts.

What’s an important skill you got from your club kid background?   

Marcelo Burlon: Well, first of all how to communicate with people, but also a total freedom with things. I’m not a designer, I’m still the person I was – I didn’t go to school to design but I have the concept for the collection then I direct my team. And that’s the difference between me and a designer. I'm out there on the dancefloor with the kids. I'm not on the podium looking at everyone; I have a different approach to people and things.

Why is that important to you?

Marcelo Burlon: We have a big responsibility with the new generation because they really follow you, they really hear you. They want to know what you think, not just what you wear or who you’re with. They really want to understand the story; we have a big responsibility so we need to show them that we haven’t forgotten where we’ve come from.  

“We don’t go down the street to copy or to take inspiration – we are the street” – Marcelo Burlon

What do you think of the way big fashion brands have started paying attention to how streetwear companies operate?

Marcelo Burlon: It’s me and my partners Davide de Gilio and Claudio Antonioli. When we started my brand I brought Virgil to the house because I met him in a club in Paris. I said to him, ‘What’s happening with the parties, you don’t do parties really anymore?’ he said, ‘I don't do parties but I’ve got an idea and I’m looking for someone to help me’ and I said ‘You should come to Milan and I'll introduce you to my partners’. This is how we started bringing new brands or new ideas to the group, you know the idea was bringing or creating brands that are not related to fashion. So the creative directors who come from music or tech or architecture, people that come from different fields. And that represents the world today because there is much freedom out there.

How do you think what you do is different from what’s out there?

Marcelo Burlon: Looking at other companies I think sometimes they lost their reality with things. The difference between us and bigger companies is that we don’t go down the street to copy or to take inspiration – we are the street. I think that is the difference between those brands and our group. So we are all mostly DJs connecting with our customers, which is something a brand can’t really do.

Finally, you work a hell of a lot and still have fun. Where do you get your energy?

Marcelo Burlon: I don’t know, I’m just like this! I have many people working with me so I’m confident, I don’t get stressed, I don’t scream, I don’t go mad. I’m like okay, just go with the flow. My energy comes from my music, comes from my people, my friends, people that love me. It took a while because, working on these things, you always attract people who want to take advantage or get something from you. But I’m super lucky. Every time I walk inside my office I’m like oh my God, we did all of this.