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The 2018 Met Gala red carpet was flooded with celebrities wearing their best Catholicism-inspired outfits, including Rihanna as a sexy pope and Zendaya glamorously girded for battle like Joan of Arc. Yet the most shocking gown of the evening had nothing to do with religious aesthetics. It was a romantic, flower-strewn burgundy dress, worn by Scarlett Johansson, that was made by Marchesa, the brand designed by Harvey Weinstein’s now-ex-wife Georgina Chapman.
Once a ubiquitous presence at movie premieres and award shows, Marchesa all but disappeared from the red carpet after allegations of sexual harassment and assault came out against Weinstein in early October. Days later, Chapman announced that she was leaving Weinstein, but her brand kept a low profile in the months that followed. In January, Chapman and her business partner, Keren Craig, canceled Marchesa’s New York Fashion Week show, set to take place on Valentine’s Day.
Though Chapman quickly distanced herself personally from Weinstein, whom she married in 2007, it makes sense that Marchesa would go off the grid, publicity-wise. The brand benefited enormously from its connection to the producer, with actresses who starred in his films routinely wearing Marchesa to promotional events. (Felicity Huffman and Jessica Chastain both said that Weinstein pressured them to wear the brand.) As cries to boycott Marchesa followed October’s claims against Weinstein, Racked’s Nadra Nittle wondered, “Should Marchesa Pay for Harvey Weinstein?”
Johansson’s choice to wear Marchesa on Monday was the first sign that a comeback was afoot. As she told the Cut after the Met Gala, “I wore Marchesa 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.”
Then in an appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert Wednesday night, Vogue editor Anna Wintour commended Johansson for supporting the brand.
“Georgina is a brilliant designer, and I don’t think that she should be blamed for her husband’s behavior, and I think it was a great gesture of support on Scarlett’s part to wear a dress like that, a beautiful dress like that, on such a public occasion,” Wintour said.
Early this morning, Marchesa’s rehabilitation ramped up in a big way. Vogue published a magazine feature about Chapman’s life since the Weinstein allegations first emerged, which paints a sympathetic portrait of a woman who was blindsided by her husband’s actions. Less than an hour later, Wintour’s June editor’s letter went live. It reads as an explicit message of support for Chapman and her business.
“I am firmly convinced that Georgina had no idea about her husband’s behavior; blaming her for any of it, as too many have in our gladiatorial digital age, is wrong,” Wintour writes. “I believe that one should not hold a person responsible for the actions of his or her partner.”
Wintour, a longtime friend of Weinstein’s, denounced the producer’s actions as “appalling and unacceptable” in October.
Indeed, Vogue’s profile of Chapman describes a woman who hasn’t left the house in five months, who is “wide-eyed and nervous, uncomfortable in her skin,” who lost “ten pounds in five days” after the New York Times and New Yorker published their investigations of her ex-husband’s predatory behavior:
As our lunch is winding down, I ask, almost in passing, if Chapman really hadn’t been out in five months; she seems to shrink before my eyes as her mouth goes dry. “I was so humiliated and so broken ... that ... I, I, I ... didn’t think it was respectful to go out,” she says. “I thought, Who am I to be parading around with all of this going on? It’s still so very, very raw. I was walking up the stairs the other day and I stopped; it was like all the air had been punched out of my lungs.”
The profile is an emotional narrative for sure, but it also gives Chapman a typically high-gloss treatment. (Its author, Jonathan Van Meter, writes many of Vogue’s celebrity cover stories.) Friends like actor David Oyelowo, writer Neil Gaiman, and Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin all turn up to vouch for Chapman’s character. Vogue’s judgment of Chapman is, very clearly, “Not complicit.” Though as Jodi Kantor, one of the journalists who broke the Weinstein story, noted on Twitter, not all of the facts in the feature are correct.
I don't know what Georgina Chapman did or didn't know, but her statement here is incorrect. Our first article about Weinstein had three decades of allegations, 1990-2015. https://t.co/jrMiXrZE2L pic.twitter.com/fkprW0hxiL— jodikantor (@jodikantor) May 10, 2018
The woman behind Marchesa’s rehabilitation is, of course, Wintour, who oversees the entirety of the Met Gala and has a hand in choosing which designers the celebrity attendees wear (including, no doubt, Johansson). Its rollout this week was considered: Start with a fashion-world event that is, as the New York Times reported this morning, “kind of a safe space” for Chapman, proceed to late-night TV, and then drop the big, beautiful tell-all the next day.
Marchesa and its lower-priced Marchesa Notte line are still sold at a variety of retailers, including Nordstrom, Bergdorf Goodman, and Farfetch. (Emailed this morning, those stores have not responded to inquiries about the brand’s sales performance.) It shouldn’t be long before we start seeing its gowns filtering onto the red carpet once again.