Keren Craig, Marchesa cofounder, said today she has decided to leave her role with the company to pursue new creative ventures.
Georgina Chapman and Craig established Marchesa specializing in women’s wear in 2004. The brand has evolved into a full lifestyle company and now includes an eveningwear line, Marchesa Bridal, Marchesa Notte, Couture and Notte Bridal, as well as collections of both fine and fashion jewelry.
“While I have made the difficult decision to part ways with Marchesa, I have tremendous pride in the company, the team, and the many successes achieved. Marchesa will always be the realization of a dream,” Craig said. “Over the last 16 years, it has been the most incredible and fulfilling professional journey. I am excited to now begin exploring additional creative opportunities and to push my potential as a designer in new directions.”
Neither Chapman nor Craig were immediately available for further comment about the future of the company and Craig’s plans. Edward Chapman, the firm’s chief executive officer and the designer’s brother, didn’t return a phone call seeking comment.
Sources indicate that the company plans to continue and the presumption is that Marchesa will present a spring 2020 collection in September, by appointment. The brand has a design director.
Marchesa has had a difficult 20 months following the rape and sexual misconduct allegations of Chapman’s former husband Harvey Weinstein. The brand suspended its runway shows and over the last few seasons has held only presentations, without Chapman and Craig present. Hollywood stars also initially shunned the label because of the Weinstein connection, but a few have begun wearing it again — although far from the number that wore it in the past.
The 43-year-old Craig, who was born in Lucerne, Switzerland, met Chapman while they were both students at Chelsea College of Art and Design. Craig graduated from Brighton Art College in 2000 with a BA in Fashion Textiles with Business and eventually concentrated on print and embroidery design. She earlier did freelance printmaking at Calvin Klein and Dolce & Gabbana. When Craig and Chapman launched Marchesa in 2004, they named it after socialite Marchesa Luisa Casati. Chapman’s relationship with Weinstein and his relationship with Hollywood helped the rise of the label, and it became a red carpet staple.
Craig became known for her textile design and embroideries, while Chapman was known for her draping. The co-creative directors were big on opulence and artistic references, like Chantilly lace tops with beading or strapless gold-embroidered tulle gowns. Sources said they have had a strained relationship for the past year.
After the Weinstein scandal broke in October, 2017, Chapman and Craig decided to skip the traditional runway show and presented their fall 2018 collection digitally. In January, 2018, Weinstein and Chapman reached a settlement in their divorce, with Chapman set to receive up to $20 million. Despite the negative publicity that surrounded Weinstein and by association, the brand, the company only lost one jewelry deal with Helzberg Diamonds. Retailers such as Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue continued to support the company, whose business is relatively small.
As the Weinstein allegations emerged, various women, including Felicity Huffman, Renée Zellweger and Kerry Washington claimed that Weinstein had pressured them into wearing Marchesa on the red carpet. The brand decided to step back from dressing celebrities for red carpet events immediately after the scandal broke. But after a few months, stars started wearing the dresses again on the red carpet, and stylists said they would once again pull from the line. In fact, Scarlett Johansson wore Marchesa to the Met Gala in May, 2018, and said she made the choice to support Chapman and Craig.
George Kotsiopoulos, who dressed celebrities like Washington in Marchesa’s heyday, told WWD last August, “I think it’s about what’s happening now. What happened before is irrelevant. If Georgina can start fresh, wipe the slate clean, I think she has a huge chance because who wouldn’t want to support her? People liked Georgina and Keren. That goes a long way. And they were pretty dresses.”
Last April, Marchesa sat out of New York’s spring 2020 bridal calendar, but they didn’t skip out on the season. Instead of having small presentations or appointments for their hand-embellished wedding gowns, they staged their first runway show at Valmont Barcelona Bridal Fashion Week.
In May, Marchesa donated the blue dress that actress Constance Wu wore in the film “Crazy Rich Asians” to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. The dress was presented during “The Party: A Smithsonian Celebration of Asian-Pacific Americans,” a Los Angeles event hosted by the Smithsonian’s Asian-Pacific American Center at City Market Social House.
At this year’s Met Gala in May, Wu, a guest of Chapman’s, wore a beaded silver Marchesa gown.
Earlier this month, the brand introduced a new Marchesa Daywear collection.
Among the brand’s current distribution are retailers such as Neiman’s, Saks, Nordstrom, 11 Honoré, Moda Operandi, Shopbop, and Net-a-porter, in addition to bridal boutiques.
Nancy Aucone, owner of The Wedding Salon of Manhasset, a nearly 10,000-square-foot upscale bridal store in Manhasset, N.Y., said the Marchesa bridal collection continues to sell well. “It’s a wonderful name for the wedding salon, and its right up there with Vera Wang, Monique Lhuillier and Carolina Herrera.”
Aucone doesn’t feel that Craig’s departure will have a negative impact on the brand. “The Marchesa name is out there. They know the name and consider it a celebrity wedding dress,” she said. She said it might have a long-term impact, but she’s not privy to the inner design workings of the company.
After the Weinstein scandal, Aucone said the business actually got a lift because there was the “positive side of defending the woman.” She said Marchesa’s customers said “Don’t punish her for his faults. It probably gave her [Chapman] more publicity and not in a negative way.”
Aucone said the store held a trunk show for Marchesa in early June. “It pulls nice traffic and it’s a good name. It’s a very high fashion line, and the credibility of Georgina is there,” Aucone said.
Gary Wassner, ceo of Hilldun Corp., a factoring firm, noted that Marchesa was not a client, so he has no first-hand knowledge of what transpired. He surmised that it’s probably been a struggle for them. “It was a great product and it was a beautiful product and it deserved being on the red carpet all on its own. If they could make the case clear, with regard to the suspicions people have, I think they could resurrect it.
“Lots of partners split up for multiple reasons and they survive. Sometimes they survive and they’re stronger for it, like Cushnie. It’s not one voice speaking and in many respects, it’s a clearer voice. I don’t think that alone is problematic. They really need to get in front of it at this point, and now they have an opportunity with the departure of one of the partners to really come out and explain it all,” he said.