By  on September 10, 2005

LONDON — Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig are not hitting the runway this season with their label that celebrities love to love. In fact, the Marchesa designers are not even showing their latest collection, but, naturally, they're creating a buzz.

The London-based designers are in New York for the next few weeks hammering out the manufacturing and distribution details of their first ready-to-wear collection, which will bow for spring 2006. It will be made up entirely of evening dresses, with retail prices starting at around $800.

"We've always hoped and dreamed big," said Chapman in a telephone interview from New York. "Now, we just hope that people out there will want to buy the dresses."

Chapman and Craig, who captured the spotlight earlier this year after dressing a battery of stars including Cate Blanchett, Renée Zellweger and Scarlett Johansson in their couture designs, said they want to make their clothes accessible to a wider public.

"The rtw dresses won't be hand-sewn, but they will be as true as they possibly can to the couture dresses. They will be heavily corseted, they'll have heavy embroidery and they'll be made from fabrics that are woven and designs that are made especially for us," said Chapman.

"They're going to be as close as possible to the red-carpet styles, so that girls can actually buy what they see," she added. What they won't be is labor- and time-intensive. Chapman said the couture dresses each take about two months to make.

The two designers said they will produce the spring 2006 sample collection, about 30 different styles that range from cocktail dresses to long eveningwear, in-house. They are nailing down a deal with an Italian manufacturer to manufacture the line. The embroidery, a signature of the couture dresses, will continue to be done in India.

The brand is backed by Giuseppe Cipriani, of the Harry's Bar and Cipriani restaurant clan. It's Cipriani's first real foray into the industry, said Chapman. "I'm a fan of his restaurants, his girlfriend is a model and she loves the stuff, so we all thought, why not?"

The partners plan to distribute the line internationally, and are already in talks with a major U.S. retailer for an exclusive deal. They declined to comment further. They also declined to give any current sales figures for their couture business, adding that it was "not huge."They say they plan to move into daywear as soon as possible, and want to stage a show as soon as the right financing is in place. In the meantime, they'll continue dressing their celebrity clientele. "And we're always keeping our eyes open for new stars," Chapman said.

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