Marchesa Branches Into Lifestyle
by adrienne gaffney
Georgina Chapman celebrates Marchesa’s 10th anniversary this year.
Designers Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig will celebrate the 10th anniversary of Marchesa this year, a significant milestone for any label. But few fashion companies marking a decade in business manage to become, as Marchesa has, a full-fledged fashion empire in such a relatively short period of time. The rapid growth means that Chapman (whose high-octane glamour and high profile marriage to media mogul Harvey Weinstein made her the face of the brand) and cofounder Craig work at a breakneck pace, producing six couture and bridal collections, plus a handful of secondary lines each year. Chapman also serves as a judge on Project Runway All-Stars.
Chapman and Craig met as students at London’s Chelsea College of Art and Design, where they found their design sensibilities to be in sync. “We have the same taste; we appreciate the same things,” Chapman says. “If you put together a pile of swatches, we’ll be drawn to the same ones.” Different areas of specialty, Chapman’s being draping and design, Craig focusing on embroidery, also made them well-suited partners.
A look from Marchesa’s Spring/Summer 2014 couture line.
In 2004, Chapman was working in costume design when she and Craig, who was a freelance designer, decided to strike out on their own. Their initial collection of ornate, exquisitely detailed gowns was an instant hit, and the Marchesa label soon turned up on red carpets, worn by actress devotees like Renée Zellweger, Scarlett Johansson, and Penelope Cruz. In 2006, their place in the fashion firmament was secured as a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist.
Despite the company’s rapid success—with several diffusion lines and bridal, a fragrance, and tabletop collections—Chapman won’t admit to any strategic foresight. “When we started Marchesa, I didn’t sit down and think, I’ve got to fill a niche that doesn’t exist,” she says. “It was about wanting to make beautiful clothes and hoping people would respond.” The company is run by a tight-knit team that includes Craig and Chapman’s brother Edward, who serves as company CEO. “We make all the decisions together,” she says, adding that deciding on where to take the brand is “a very organic process. When we felt it was the time to go into bags, we went into bags.”
A multicolor floral and pearl embroidery faceted box with crystal quartz lock ($2,995).
The enormous popularity of Marchesa bridalwear hasn’t surprised the industry—a wedding presents the perfect occasion for a bride to indulge in a bit of Hollywood style, and Marchesa has deftly translated its red-carpet expertise to the white carpet. (Cases in point: actress Blake Lively’s 2012 wedding gown and the dress worn by Chapman to her 2007 nuptials to producer Harvey Weinstein were both Marchesa.) “I love bridal!” Chapman says. “There’s something very special about making dresses for the most important day of a woman’s life. There’s a great sense of responsibility in that.”
Voyage, launched this fall, is the most recent addition to the Marchesa brand. It’s a travelinspired, lower-price-point sportswear line, filled with sophisticated casualwear—jersey dresses, harem pants, and flowing blouses. “When we first started Marchesa, it was something we considered pursuing immediately,” she explains. “We always wanted to be a lifestyle brand. We started with eveningwear because we were advised to and that’s what we loved. But we always envisioned this other component of Marchesa. It was a question of when not if.” The line, which is sold at Saks in New York City, currently has its resort collection in stores and just showed looks for Spring 2014.
A Marchesa mood board.
The nonstop schedule Chapman maintains at the helm of Marchesa is matched by that of her husband, movie producer Harvey Weinstein. Although her relationship with one of Hollywood’s most powerful figures helped raise the label’s profile in its early years, Chapman says she keeps business talk with Weinstein to a minimum. “You get home, and if you feel like talking about work, then you talk about it, but other times you don’t,” she explains. “You talk about the family and have a good time. I think it’s the same as any relationship, really.”
Despite the demands of running a global company with a presence in more than 50 countries, Chapman, 37, has molded her job to allow for maximum time with her family; she and Weinstein have a daughter India Pearl, 3, and son Dashiell, 8 months, both of whom are frequent presences around Marchesa’s New York Chelsea office. “I have the privilege of having my own business, which means I have flexibility, so when my children need me I can escape,” she says. Since having children Chapman, who is also stepmother to three girls from her husband’s previous marriage, says she “gets less stressed about things now, because nothing is as important as your kids. Things that used to bother me so much don’t as much. Maybe I’m preserving my energy for evenings with my children.”
Chapman says she feels no need to think about long-term goals for Marchesa. “It’s not a question of, ‘oh, I hope in 10 years it’s going to be this,’” she says. “If things stay like this forever I will be satisfied, happy, and grateful.”
photography by Gregg Delman