Often seated next to Vogue’s Anna Wintour, Harvey Weinstein has been a front-row fixture at wife Georgina Chapman’s Marchesa fashion shows for nearly a decade and used his Hollywood connections early in the label’s history to help place Marchesa gowns on A-list stars such as Sandra Bullock, Penelope Cruz, Renee Zellweger, Anne Hathaway, Kate Hudson and Jennifer Lopez.
But now, fashion insiders are wondering how Marchesa, whose evening and bridal wear is often described as fairytale-like, can survive the nightmare association with the producer, who was fired by The Weinstein Co. board Sunday following allegations first published in The New York Times that he has been sexually harassing women for decades, including actress Ashley Judd, who was quoted in the story.
“No star is ever going to want to wear the brand again,” said a New York fashion publicist who did not want to be named.
Chapman, 41, began dating Weinstein in 2004 after he left his first wife. They were married Dec. 15, 2007, and have two children together. The English designer, who co-founded Marchesa in 2004 with former model Keren Craig, would not comment to The Hollywood Reporter about the allegations. But there is already evidence they could be tarnishing the brand image, despite the fact that Weinstein, 65, does not have any official financial ties to Marchesa or a seat on the board. The brand’s CEO is Georgina’s brother, Edward Chapman.
The designers showed their Marchesa and Marchesa Notte fall 2018 bridal collections in New York on Thursday, featuring “feather light textures, dripping florals and romantic drapery.” Photos posted by Chapman on her Instagram drew immediate comments, such as this from Bythebeachboy: “Funny how you make so much money off young women while your husband has been assaulting them.” The comments were later deleted from the account. Several celebrities have also come out in the media criticizing Weinstein, including Lena Dunham, Dame Judi Dench and Meryl Streep.
Weinstein has been a central figure in bridging the Hollywood and fashion worlds. The Weinstein Co. has bankrolled many fashion-related projects and sumptuous costume films, from Robert Altman send-up of the industry, Pret-a-Porter (1994), to the Madonna-directed WE (2011) about style icon the Duchess of Windsor.
The Weinstein Co. has produced Project Runway since its inception in 2004, helping to lift the curtain on the traditionally elitist fashion world and bring it into people’s living rooms. Chapman has made occasional appearances as a judge on the show and has been a regular judge on the Project Runway All Stars spinoff. Weinstein’s name is being removed as executive producer of Project Runway when the Lifetime series airs its next episode Wednesday.
The Weinstein Co. has collaborated with Chopard on co-hosted awards show parties and events, including having the fine jeweler place product in such Weinstein films as 2010’s Nine.
Weinstein is cozy with Vogue’s Wintour, having co-hosted both fashion and Democratic political fundraising events with her over the years, and he and Chapman are regular guests at her annual Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute galas. Neither Wintour’s office nor representatives for Chopard responded to requests for comment about the allegations.
“When I wasn’t doing so well, Anna would throw a party and put me next to Bernard Arnault,” Weinstein told The Wall Street Journal in 2011, referring to the powerful Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy CEO, adding that several business deals came out of the introduction. In a 2007 T Magazine story, he revealed that the French billionaire was an investor in The Weinstein Co. and possibly the failed attempt in 2007 to revive celeb-loved brand Halston with Sarah Jessica Parker, Jimmy Choo founder Tamara Mellon and stylist Rachel Zoe as advisers. (Weinstein exited the company in 2011; in 2014, he licensed with an option to buy the name of the American couturier Charles James, but has yet to do anything with it.)
With Marchesa, Weinstein seemed to have the magic touch, at least at the beginning. Although Chapman and Craig had relatively little experience as designers, their fledgling fashion label became a major red-carpet player in its first three years, dressing a who’s who of Hollywood with Weinstein’s help, including Lopez and Miller for the 2007 Golden Globes and Lopez for the 2007 Oscars. Around the same time, Chapman also made a number of appearances as a film actress, including in several films that Weinstein produced, such as 2005’s Derailed and 2007’s The Nanny Diaries.
“He was the mastermind behind Marchesa — orchestrating deals and using his influence in terms of the celebrity connections for her on behalf of the brand,” says an L.A. fashion publicist, adding that her understanding of their marriage was that “they both benefited from the relationship, but she certainly knew about his bad behavior.”
Another publicist remembers showing Miller, who had just starred in the Weinstein-produced 2006 film Factory Girl, a gown by another designer that she liked, only to be told by her camp that because the star was sitting with Weinstein and Chapman at the Golden Globes, “he would be very upset if she didn’t wear Marchesa.” The same longtime L.A. based publicist also related that Felicity Huffman was told by Weinstein that he wouldn’t put any money behind promoting her 2005 film Transamerica unless she wore Marchesa on the red carpet.
In recent years, as more big-name luxury brands have gotten into the red-carpet dressing game, offering lucrative contracts to stars to wear their gowns, Marchesa has not been as visible. Although Octavia Spencer did wear a custom Marchesa gown to the 2017 Oscars, other red-carpet dressing placements have been more lackluster (Olivia Culpo at the 2017 Oscars in a gown made in collaboration with Stella Artois out of melted-down beer glass), or “C-list,” as one fashion watcher remarked, compared to the boom years when Marchesa would dress multiple A-list nominees on one night. There was work that needed to be done to try to restore the sheen to the business — and that was even before the Weinstein story hit.
Marchesa, which is sold at Neiman Marcus and high-end boutiques, now encompasses accessories, shoes and jewelry, as well as the more-affordable Marchesa Notte eveningwear and bridal wear lines. The Weinstein effect on the brand image going forward is unclear.
Douglas Hand, fashion lawyer at HBA LLP and professor of fashion law at NYU School of Law, says, “For a high-end luxury brand with a talented designer and an aesthetic that is gorgeous, losing access to celebrities for red-carpet events would certainly be damaging. As a case in point, consider the well-deserved brand purgatory of John Galliano after his anti-Semitic rant.”
Galliano has been redeemed, at least in some people’s eyes, and is now the creative director of Maison Margiela. And American sportswear designer Tory Burch survived a high-profile split from husband and brand co-founder Chris Burch and went on to become a billionaire.
Perhaps Chapman — and Marchesa — will be stronger without Weinstein.