Saturday 21 July 2018

The battle for Marchesa: Georgina Chapman splits from Harvey Weinstein - but can save it the brand?

 

Harvey Weinstein with Georgina Chapman. Photo: Getty
Harvey Weinstein with Georgina Chapman. Photo: Getty
BAFTA Film Awards 2014 – Arrivals – London
Harvey Weinstein allegations
Damage limitation: Georgina Chapman is trying to save her clothing label by splitting with her husband. Photo: Getty
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 03: Designer Georgina Chapman attends the 11th annual CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Awards at Spring Studios on November 3, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)
Movie boss Harvey Weinstein and pregnant wife Georgina Chapman walked the red carpet
Designers Keren Craig (L) and Georgina Chapman of Marchesa attend the 11th annual CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Awards at Spring Studios on November 3, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)
Georgina Chapman attends premiere of "Project Runway All Stars" Season 2 at the Nine West flagship store on October 25 New York.
Designer Georgina Chapman arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, California February 28, 2016. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
A model walks the runway at the Marchesa Spring 2016 fashion show during New York Fashion Week
Actress Katie Holmes poses with Marchesa designers Keren Craig (2nd L) and Georgina Chapman (R) and singer Kylie Minogue (L) as they arrive at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala Benefit celebrating the opening of "Charles James: Beyond Fashion" in Upper Manhattan, New York, May 5, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Studio executive Harvey Weinstein and wife, fashion designer Georgina Chapman, arrive at the 87th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 22, 2015. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT) (OSCARS-ARRIVALS)
The 89th Academy Awards – Arrivals – Los Angeles

Meadhbh McGrath

Amid mounting allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Harvey Weinstein from the likes of Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Ashley Judd, one woman at the centre of it all was keeping quiet: Georgina Chapman, the movie mogul's wife and co-founder of the luxury fashion label Marchesa.

Critics speculated as to whether the 41-year-old would support her husband of 10 years, with whom she has two children, India Pearl (7) and Dashiell (4). Weinstein seemed confident, saying: "She stands 100pc behind me. Georgina and I have talked about this at length… Georgina will be with Lisa [his lawyer, who resigned five days ago] and others kicking my ass to be a better human being and to apologise to people for my bad behaviour, to say I'm sorry, and to absolutely mean it."

Alas, it wasn't to last ­- on Tuesday Chapman announced she was leaving the disgraced producer as he reportedly seeks treatment for sex addiction at a European rehab centre.

"My heart breaks for all the women who have suffered tremendous pain because of these unforgivable actions. I have chosen to leave my husband. Caring for my young children is my first priority and I ask the media for privacy at this time," she said in a statement.

(L-R) Singer Kylie Minogue, Keren Craig, Katie Holmes and Georgina Chapman arrive at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala Benefit celebrating the opening of
(L-R) Singer Kylie Minogue, Keren Craig, Katie Holmes and Georgina Chapman arrive at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala Benefit celebrating the opening of "Charles James: Beyond Fashion" in Upper Manhattan, New York May 5, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

But sources claim Chapman is more concerned about the impact the scandal might have on Marchesa than about their marriage, and that the separation is likely a desperate bid to save her brand.

Last Thursday, The New York Times published a startling report detailing nearly three decades of allegations against Weinstein. On Sunday, he was fired from his production company and on Tuesday, The New Yorker published the findings from a 10-month investigation into his alleged sexual misconduct, including an audio recording where he admitted to groping the Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez. He has "unequivocally denied" all allegations of non-consensual sex. While the Weinstein Company looks to have just about collapsed in the space of a few days, it's not the only business struggling in the aftermath of the exposé.

The English-born Chapman started Marchesa with former model Keren Craig in 2004, the same year she began dating a recently divorced Weinstein. Classmates at London's Chelsea College of Art and Design, Chapman and Craig had little professional experience as designers, but their label soon became a red carpet mainstay.

In just seven months, they had dressed Renee Zellweger for the premiere of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (a film distributed by Weinstein's company Miramax), and a year later, Cate Blanchett stepped out in Marchesa at the premiere of The Aviator (executive produced by Weinstein). "Maybe I helped, but just very, very little, with Renee Zellweger," Weinstein later admitted.

A model walks the runway at the Marchesa Spring 2016 fashion show during New York Fashion Week
A model walks the runway at the Marchesa Spring 2016 fashion show during New York Fashion Week

In 2007, the year the couple married, Marchesa dressed stars including Jennifer Lopez, Anne Hathaway and Sienna Miller for the Oscars and the Golden Globes, and was named Red Carpet Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Awards.

Marchesa is known for its frothy and notoriously over-the-top princess gowns, as well as accessories, shoes, jewellery and the lower-priced diffusion line Marchesa Notte. The brand's bridalwear is also hugely popular. Loaded with sequins, feathers and intricate embroidery, a single dress can take up to two months to complete.

Actress Blake Lively leaves the Marchesa fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Fall 2015 at St. Regis Hotel
Actress Blake Lively leaves the Marchesa fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Fall 2015 at St. Regis Hotel

As the news broke last week, Chapman was in the middle of presenting Marchesa's autumn-winter 2018 bridal collection. She posted photos of the designs on Instagram, which quickly drew ire from users slamming her husband's alleged misconduct. Many of the criticisms have since been deleted, while supportive comments like "Everyone really needs to leave her be!" remain. Marchesa's Instagram posts have been limited, with only users the account follows allowed to add comments.

Although Weinstein does not have an official role at Marchesa, the brand has undoubtedly been tarnished by association with him. Over the last decade, Weinstein has become a familiar face in the fashion world, as executive producer of the Heidi Klum-fronted reality competition series Project Runway and co-host of awards season parties with labels like Chopard. He also enjoys a close friendship with US Vogue editor Anna Wintor and is often spotted sitting next to her on the front row at his wife's fashion shows.

It has been rumoured that Chapman relied on her husband's Hollywood connections to help bolster her brand, as many actresses starring in his films could be seen wearing Marchesa at premieres, awards shows or on press tours. He is believed to have helped place Marchesa gowns on the likes of Kate Hudson, Scarlett Johansson, Sandra Bullock and Penelope Cruz.

As one fashion insider said: "[He] wasn't exactly subtle about asking Miramax's female stars to wear Marchesa on the red carpet. And if the studio chief of your movie, and potential movies, asked you to wear a certain designer, wouldn't you want to accommodate him?"

The insinuations that Weinstein helped her business have followed Chapman for years. In 2006, a Los Angeles Times article noted that some in the fashion industry were suspicious of Marchesa's success: "Competitors complain that Marchesa dresses are worn on the red carpet because the stars ­-and their agents, managers and lawyers - need to please the powerful Weinstein… Say the word 'Marchesa' and publicists groan."

But Marchesa's popularity on the red carpet has started to wane. The brand had already started to lose some of its lustre before Weinstein became embroiled in scandal: while it used to regularly dress a raft of A-list actresses at the same event, this year the most notable output was a custom gown worn by singer Rita Ora at the Met Gala, while Kate Middleton opted for a design from the brand's diffusion line to see a West End show.

While her husband was a crucial factor in Marchesa's success, he could now bring about the brand's downfall.

Considering it's a family business - Georgina's brother Edward is the CEO - there's a lot riding on the brand, and fashion insiders have suggested one way to save Marchesa would be by donating money or supporting an organisation for victims of sexual assault.

Otherwise, as an unnamed fashion publicist told the Hollywood Reporter: "No star is ever going to want to wear the brand again."

Irish Independent

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