Marchesa once ruled the red carpet. The brand previously considered Kate Hudson, Blake Lively, Chrissy Teigen, Jennifer Lopez, and Eva Longoria as fans, and just one season ago, you would have been hard-pressed not to find someone famous sitting front row at its New York Fashion Week show.
All of that changed last fall when Harvey Weinstein, the husband of Marchesa co-founder Georgina Chapman, was accused by dozens of women of alleged sexual misconduct and in some cases, rape. Since then, Chapman has chosen to leave her ex and is reportedly set to receive between $15 and $20 million from their divorce agreement. She’s also getting primary custody of their two children, ages 7 and 4. “My heart breaks for all the women who have suffered,” Chapman said in a statement when announcing her separation from the movie mogul.
But did her fashion line, which she founded with longtime friend Keren Craig in 2004, change at all? At Marchesa, it’s business as usual—for the most part. On the same day that the New York Times published its Weinstein exposé (Oct. 5, 2017) the brand showcased its fall 2018 bridal collection in New York City to muted response. In January 2018, the brand released a pre-fall lookbook for its namesake and Marchesa Notte lines. However, when it came time for the fall collection, generally shown at New York Fashion Week in February, the traditional runway format was nixed.
“Marchesa is looking forward to presenting their fall 2018 collection in an updated format this season,” a spokesperson told People in January. That form came via a digital lookbook modeled by muse Karen Elson.
Each piece in the collection is moody, romantic, and perfect for the red carpet—much like all Marchesa collections before it.
Of course, a lot has changed since the Weinstein allegations first surfaced in October. Women (and men) have used their platforms to speak out against sexual harassment, and organizations like Time’s Up have formed to put a stop—a measurable one—on such misconduct. Red carpets, as we just saw at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, Grammys, and Brit Awards, are now not just a place to show off new fashion, but to spark political conversation.
So what place does Marchesa have in this conversation? The fall 2018 collection was created as Chapman and her family grappled with allegations against Weinstein that surfaced for months. In a new interview with Grazia, co-founder Keren Craig explains that while the news has been tough on her business partner, Chapman would like to move on.
“Everything that you see here today, Georgina sketched while she was out of the office and going through a very, very tough time,” Craig said about the fall 2018 collection. The designer, who is also godmother to Chapman and Weinstein’s children, added that Chapman was strong in the wake of the allegations and that the new looks are a reflection of that period.
“She threw herself into her work, she threw herself into protecting her kids. Marchesa is her life, it is her passion. You see it here: Even though she was going through all that, these beautiful things have somehow come out of such a hard time,” Craig added.
The collection may be reflective of a tough time, however, there are no glaring messages of anger seen in it—no T-shirts that say #MeToo, or a pin that reads "Time’s Up." “It was about getting to the office and making sure that everyone there knew that it was business as usual,” Craig added.
Interestingly, Craig said the brand is looking to shift their focus away from the red carpet and instead onto its core consumer. They still count Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue as business partners, and Craig said their clients have stuck with them.
“In the future, I am sure you will see our dresses on the red carpet,” she said, “but right now it’s time to step back from that. That’s always been a great marketing tool for us, but it’s not our core business.”
Despite the fact that the brand would like to forget Weinstein, reports have surfaced about Weinstein pressuring Hollywood women into wearing Marchesa. In an interview with WSJ magazine, Jessica Chastain said Weinstein taunted her after she refused to wear a dress by the brand. Craig said that the mogul was helpful in “meeting people, arranging contacts” at the launch, but that Weinstein doesn’t hold any financial weight in the company: “None, nothing.”
Craig and Chapman are looking to join the sexual harassment conversation, though it’s unclear as to how. “We want to support them. We want to make a gesture. We need to properly process how it can be the most beneficial,” Craig added.
Meghan McCain continued to support the brand amid the scandal by wearing it to her wedding. “The scandal erupted and everybody was like, are you going to keep the dress? And I was like why should the two women designers be punished for a man’s disgusting behavior,” McCain told People. “I just didn’t want to feel like the people who had worked there and make their livelihood should be punished as well.”
It’s a fair point.
On one hand, Marchesa has the opportunity to stage the greatest reckoning of them all, working with women supportive of Time's Up to wear, figuratively, the ultimate “f— you.” Could they design dresses for the all-black dress code select awards show attendees have followed?
Others, however, argue that the brand once backed by Weinstein, the brand that he pressured so many women into wearing, should take a backseat, and not join the conversation. Perhaps it’s a little too close to home. Following the allegations, the hashtag #BoycottMarchesa took off on Twitter.
It’ll be interesting to see what direction Marchesa takes in putting a stop to sexual misconduct and supporting #MeToo. (The brand did not immediately respond to InStyle's request for comment.)
In a New York Times story from October, CFDA President and CEO Steven Kolb encouraged those in fashion to stand at Chapman's side. "I think the issue is no one knows what to say to Georgina or the words to use,” he said. “But as a creative power and as a CFDA member, she is someone who deserves the industry’s support and backing.”