ANNA WINTOUR AND THE REVIVAL OF MARCHESA: MISGUIDED OR MAGNANIMOUS?

Georgina Chapman and Anna Wintour in 2014. Photo by  Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images North America.

By now, it’s no secret that Vogue editor and Condé Nast director Anna Wintour is attempting to revive the career and reputation of Georgina Chapman, co-founder of Marchesa and estranged wife of Harvey Weinstein (the two reached a settlement in January, but Chapman has yet to file papers to make the divorce official). Wintour’s efforts became apparent last week, when Scarlett Johansson made headlines for wearing a Marchesa gown to the Met Gala, fashion’s annual blowout that Wintour herself oversees every aspect of—including pre-approving attendees’ red carpet outfits. Johansson is the first major celebrity to wear Marchesa since The New Yorker and The New York Times published articles exposing Weinstein’s decades-long history of sexual misconduct in October of 2017.

Scarlett Johansson wearing Marchesa on the Met Gala red carpet. Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.

Following the Met Gala, Wintour appeared on “The Late Show” and commended Johansson’s sartorial decision (which, again, was probably orchestrated by Wintour herself). “Georgina’s a brilliant designer, and I don’t think she should be blamed for her husband’s behavior,” she told host Stephen Colbert.


The next day, Vogue published Wintour’s June Editor’s Letter, titled “Georgina Chapman Breaks Her Silence.” (The month’s issue features a lengthy interview with Chapman conducted by writer Jonathan Van Meter.) Wintour makes clear her support for Chapman: “I am firmly convinced that Georgina had no idea about her husband’s behavior,” she writes. “Blaming her for any of it, as too many have in our gladiatorial digital age, is wrong. I believe that one should not hold a person responsible for the actions of his or her partner. What Georgina should be receiving is our compassion and understanding.”

Chapman photographed by Annie Leibovitz for the June 2018 issue of Vogue

Wintour is right to assert that Chapman cannot be blamed for Weinstein’s horrific actions. However, Marchesa is so closely tied to Weinstein that it’s difficult to shake the association and its resulting implications. Weinstein is largely credited with Marchesa’s success as a red carpet favorite among celebrities—The New York Times reported that he and his friends are the company’s primary investors, and Fortune alleged that Weinstein used company funds to pay Marchesa $75,000 for dresses he gifted to business acquaintances. Celebrities including Jessica Chastain, Felicity Huffman and Sienna Miller have also shared stories of Weinstein pressuring them into wearing Marchesa at red carpet appearances, and becoming angry if they refused.

Chapman and Wintour. Photo by WireImage.

Instead of attempting to rehabilitate a brand that will always carry Weinstein’s mark both financially and socially, perhaps Wintour should encourage Chapman to start an entirely new label. Founding something fresh and free of Weinstein’s influence and financial contributions would help Chapman further distance herself from her ex-husband, and open the door for celebrities to wear the brand on the red carpet without (as much) criticism. It would also suit Wintour, who was put in a tricky situation when allegations against her friend and longtime Vogue photographer Mario Testino broke in January, to be more transparent in her campaign to revive Marchesa. As The Cut wrote, “Ironically, Wintour’s orchestration of Chapman’s comeback through magazine articles, red carpet, and Late Show appearances seems like something Weinstein himself would do. Whether or not Wintour is using his tactics for good this time is the question.”

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