About three weeks ago, the biggest story in entertainment was the drama surrounding the Sex and the City franchise. There were accusations of toxicity and egotistical behaviour. It was a goddamn picnic in the park compared to entertainment headlines these days.
This weekend, the New York Times wrote a comprehensive story on how the fashion world is responding to Harvey Weinstein. Major players like Anna Wintour and Tom Ford offered statements, and Sarah Jessica Parker was also quoted because she and Harvey (along with Rachel Zoe and Jimmy Choo co-founder Tamara Mellon) tried to re-launch the Halston brand in the mid-aughts. (Remember the white dress Carrie wore in the SATC movie? That was Halston Heritage.) As The Cut noted, SJP quietly left the brand in 2011.
But why is the fashion industry being called on to comment on a film producer? Because that is/was Harvey’s reach. At the height of his power, he held deep connections in New York’s publishing and fashion worlds, so the intersection of power brokers was natural. He attended the Met Gala, he claimed to be chummy with LMVH CEO Bernard Arnault (after an intro from Anna Wintour), he brought Project Runway to Bravo, and he acquired the North American rights for Tom Ford’s A Single Man. He took an active interest in cultivating a red carpet aesthetic, and worked with many women whose fashion choices were part of their film’s promotion.
And of course his wife is a popular red carpet fashion designer. It was always quite obvious that actresses working with The Weinstein Company would gravitate toward Marchesa – it did not take a gossip genius to figure out that he pushed that relationship.
The New York Times latest article has specifics, calling the brand “yet another symbol of Mr. Weinstein’s abuse of power.” There is debate over whether that is fair, or whether Georgina Chapman is another woman in a long list of Harvey’s victims. On the one hand, it is impossible to deny that his connections immensely helped her red carpet placement. That’s it. There is no other hand. The question now is whether or not her brand can survive his fall.
I think there’s a 50/50 chance Marchesa will make it. Anna Wintour’s statement offered support to Georgina and their children (one of the only I’ve read that even mentions her). Lauren Santo Domingo, founder of Moda Operandi and major, major fashion player said she will stand with Georgina. The CFDA offered a muddled by somewhat supportive statement.
An insider/editorial push will help, but ultimately Marchesa lives and dies on the red carpet. As the Times noted, the brand was short on A-list clients before the scandal. The style of the gowns – ornate, traditional, regal – are not very fresh or in-demand right now.
Compared to couture houses, Marchesa has never been amazing, yet over the years it has been given amazing placement. The details of how that happened are starting to be revealed and assumptions (i.e.: Harvey badgered women into wearing the gowns) are proving to be true.
On a recent red carpet, Felicity Huffman told Too Fab that Harvey badgered her into wearing Marchesa by threatening to pull marketing of Transamerica. (She did wear Marchesa – it was awful – and went on to score an Oscar nomination.) Bullying, threatening, yelling – this is obviously his pattern of behavior. Would he have pulled all marketing from Transamerica if Felicity didn’t wear what he wanted? He was vindictive and petty and routinely went after women’s careers, so who knows what he would have done. And for Felicity, I imagine that it wasn’t worth the fight at the time. She was picking and choosing her battles and wanted to promote her work.
And there’s an argument to be made that all red carpet dressing is contractual; if an actress has a deal with Dior but falls in love with a Gucci gown, which is she going to choose? Dior. Because it’s a business decision. The difference here is that Felicity wasn’t in a deal with Marchesa and this wasn’t business, it was a threat. By acquiescing to his demand, he supported her film and she earned an Oscar nomination. It’s understandable why actresses simply accepted Marchesa as part of their film’s promotion when working with him.
This is one account of dealing with Harvey and Marchesa. We can be certain it’s not the only one. With all of this coercion, how much goodwill, if any, has Marchesa built up with stylists and actresses? Can you truly build relationships if you are pressuring people into your gowns?
As of right now, the NYT said the half-dozen top stylists they spoke to are taking a “wait-and-see” approach. That means “let’s see what everyone else does.” Walking onto a red carpet in Marchesa would be a bold statement, and it would take one of the bigger names, like Cate Blanchett, SJP or Blake Lively, to lead the way. The question now is why would they. Blake wore a Marchesa wedding dress. Given the chance, would she do it again? Would any of them?
Here is Sarah Jessica Parker at the Hammer Museum Gala on the weekend.