Up until last year, Marchesa gowns were a mainstay on red carpets—including the biggest fashion-focused carpet of them all, at the Met Gala. But this year was different, with just one attendee showing up in a custom-made look from the brand on Monday night: Scarlett Johansson. And she made a big statement in the process.
Following the storm of sexual misconduct allegations made against Harvey Weinstein over the past year, Marchesa looks were basically non-existent on celebs until this week. That’s because one of the brand’s co-founders, Georgina Chapman, is Weinstein’s ex-wife.
In spite of her almost immediate separation from Weinstein after the first allegations emerged, people continued to associate the brand with what was happening, partially because Weinstein could be credited for some of its success. According to actors like Jessica Chastain and Felicity Huffman, the high-powered producer often pressured stars to wear his wife’s designs to premieres and awards shows.
As a result, Chapman and her partner at Marchesa, Keren Craig, pulled back from the spotlight. They decided to cancel their most recent New York fashion week show, and chose to not send gowns to celebrities for this year’s awards show circuit. But Johansson’s Marchesa gown, which she told Variety she chose to wear “because their clothes make women feel confident and beautiful, and it is my pleasure to support a brand created by two incredibly talented and important female designers,” could mark a comeback for the brand.
Robert Burke, the former fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman, explained to the New York Times why Monday night made sense for Marchesa’s apparent return. “It was smart of [Chapman] to start with the Met instead of the Oscars, as the Met is really an event for the fashion world; it’s a kind of safe space for her.”
Another seemingly safe space for Chapman this week is the June issue of Vogue. Not only does it include a full feature on her life after her marriage, but Anna Wintour also devoted her editor’s letter to defending the designer. It talks about her decision to leave Weinstein, her retreat from the fashion world and Wintour’s firm belief that Chapman had no idea about her then-husband’s exploits. Which begs the question: is it really fair for her to be punished for his sins?
While the Weinstein company is dealing with bankruptcy, Marchesa and its offshoot brand, Marchesa Notte, still see support from retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue, Net-a-Porter and Moda Operandi. Will Johansson’s support mark the end of Marchesa’s red carpet blackout? Only time will tell.
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