On Sunday, major Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was fired from the board of his company following a number of sexual harassment allegations published by The New York Times. More serious rape allegations against the mogul followed in Tuesday’s The New Yorker exposé.
While the 65-year-old movie executive has had his fair share of power in the film industry, it turns out he could also be a hidden player in the fashion world.
What many may not realise is that Harvey Weinstein’s wife is the Georgina Chapman of red carpet favourite Marchesa fame. Despite releasing a statement saying she is leaving her husband after 10 years of marriage, many have been left wondering whether Chapman’s association to Weinstein will impact the brand she’s worked so hard to build.
The high fashion label, founded in 2004 by Chapman and friend Keren Craig, began in London, where the pair hail from, before moving across the pond to New York.
Named after socialite Marchesa Luisa Casati, the brand grew very quickly within its first three years thanks to red carpet promotion from A-listers such as Renee Zellweger and Cate Blanchett.
With a focus on fairytale-like gowns that can take around two months to complete each, the Hollywood elite proved to be the ideal clientele for Marchesa.
It wasn’t long before people began to question whether Chapman’s then-boyfriend, Harvey Weinstein, was assisting in the PR push – especially when actress Renee Zellweger turned up to the 2004 premiere of ‘Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason’ in a red sari-style Marchesa design. After all, the film was being distributed by one of Weinstein’s companies, Miramax.
A year later, Cate Blanchett walked the red carpet of ‘The Aviator’ – another Weinstein film – wearing a similar, strapless dress in white and gold.
Weinstein had not long divorced his first wife, former assistant Eve Chilton, before beginning a relationship with the English Rose that was Chapman. Despite a 24 year age gap, the pair hit it off at a New York party, finally marrying in December 2007 and having two children: daughter India in 2010 and son Dashielle in 2013.
It was around the time of the couple’s marriage (which was attended by the likes of Zellweger, Jennifer Lopez, Naomi Watts and Anna Wintour) that Marchesa really began to hit headlines.
After showing at New York Fashion Week for the first time in 2006, Chapman and Craig saw their designs modelled by Sienna Miller at the 2007 Golden Globes and Lopez at the Oscars ceremony of that same year.
Other celebrity fans began popping up, whether it was Hollywood greats like Penelope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson and Kate Hudson or up-and-coming talents such as Emma Watson and Freida Pinto.
All of the aforementioned starred in a film produced by one of Harvey Weinstein’s companies.
Being romantically attached to Harvey Weinstein must have allowed Chapman more access to celebrities than she could ever have dreamed of. However, Weinstein has previously claimed he did very little to boost the brand.
“Maybe I helped, but just very, very little, with Renée Zellweger,” admitted Weinstein in a 2013 interview with Vogue. “Within a year or two, it became actresses calling me on the phone asking if she was available for them. So the tables completely turned.”
“When you see her beautiful work, you feel like you’re witnessing a craft that doesn’t exist any longer,” gushed Blake Lively, who chose Marchesa for her 2012 wedding dress. “The only designer that really makes you feel like a princess is Marchesa.”
Beginning her school life at Malborough College, a private institution, Chapman, now 41, studied fashion at the Chelsea College of Art and Design, where she met former model Keren Craig, before gaining a degree in costume design from Wimbledon College in 2001.
Just five years later, Marchesa was named as one of the 10 finalists of the CFDA’s prestigious Vogue Fashion Fund; a real achievement for any fledgling brand. Coincidentally, Weinstein had become a close friend of Vogue editor Anna Wintour.
The following year, Chapman and Craig took home the award for Red Carpet Designers of the Year at the 2007 British Fashion Awards.
There’s no denying Marchesa’s success – but just how much of it is down to Weinstein’s involvement?
Click below to see all of the celebrities who have worn Marchesa on the red carpet:
“When I wasn’t doing so well, Anna would throw a party and put me next to [LVMH CEO] Bernard Arnault,” Weinstein told The Wall Street Journal in 2011, adding that several business deals came out of their conversation.
Since then, Weinstein and Chapman have been regular guests at the much-coveted Met Gala with Marchesa designs appearing in the pages of Vogue on countless occasions.
A New York Times article published in 2007 – the year of the couple’s wedding – spoke to a number of stylists, designers and editors about the swift rise of Marchesa. Few “would speak on the record for fear of offending Mr. Weinstein” but did say “that Ms. Craig and Ms. Chapman, both 30, have yet to earn their laurels.”
“People are asking, ‘How is it these two young gals with nothing but a lot of money behind them can put themselves out there as a brand?’” commented Patricia Black, the director of a fashion showroom in New York.
In the same article, Weinstein denied that he had influenced the success of Marchesa in any way, saying: “The people who say things like that are just jealous. It takes away from the talent that Marchesa has exemplified.”
As well as the hobnobbing with influencers like Anna Wintour, Weinstein had enlisted the help of mega stylist Rachel Zoe to reinvigorate the Halston brand. Hiring her as creative director of the failed label in 2007, Zoe’s long list of celebrity clients including Keira Knightley and Nicole Richie became yet more high-profile wearers of Marchesa on the red carpet.
Now, though, Marchesa’s hold on the fashion industry seems to have waned as this year’s Oscars only saw Octavia Spencer and lesser-known face Olivia Culpo in Marchesa-designed gowns. Culpo’s dress was a rather strange (and less high end) collaboration with beer company Stella Artois, being made from melted down beer glass.
“I like to think people wear my dresses because they like them,” Chapman herself stated in 2013.
The recent allegations against Weinstein are yet to prove otherwise, although as one fashion publicist told the Hollywood Reporter: “No star is ever going to want to wear the brand again.”
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