Marchesa will not have a formal show for spring. But it hasn’t yet pulled the plug on some kind of spring presentation altogether. That’s the apparent takeaway from the vague statement released by “a spokesman” on Tuesday night: “Marchesa is looking forward to presenting their fall 2018 collection in an updated format this season.”
The one-liner took the Internet by storm, raising more questions than it answered. Its deliberately cryptic tone did not do Georgina Chapman, Keren Craig and their chief executive officer Edward Chapman any favors. How the company would approach this runway season has been an obvious question since the Harvey Weinstein news broke in October. That news must have been personally devastating to Chapman — unimaginably so. But it also packed serious, inevitable repercussions for the company she owns with Craig. The upcoming collections season has been staring the partners down for three months — a harsh, unrelenting deadline.
If Chapman and Craig are interested in salvaging their company, which seems to be their plan, they should have developed a short-term strategy by now. At the very least, they should have worked through some practical concerns. For example, even though they typically show on the last day of New York Fashion Week, did no one consider that a Valentine’s Day slot may not be a good idea?
Under ordinary circumstances, opting out of a traditional runway show is no big deal. Who isn’t looking for alternatives these days? Vera Wang, Zac Posen and Rodarte are just a few of the big names who have sidestepped the runway recently.
Marchesa is not operating under ordinary circumstances. Chapman and Craig should have kept their cancellation decision completely quiet until they were ready to go public with a new, concrete plan. Instead, an unfortunate leak led to the forced release of the nonstatement, putting Marchesa back in the whirl of negative Weinstein-centric discourse.
It’s too early to know whether this company can be saved. Its current red-carpet season cannot. What actress would choose to flaunt Marchesa in front of a global audience? Unless someone did so in an overt show of support for Chapman as a victim of Weinstein, which is highly unlikely.
Similarly, this upcoming runway season and its traditional editorial postscript are lost. Marchesa’s ultimate survival or demise will depend upon the support it gets from its retail partners and their clients, the women who pay for and wear the clothes. Any spring presentation more elaborate than a look-book release would turn into a circus of speculation and negativity, with the clothes a footnote at best, apart from their usefulness in fueling conversation on the divergence between fashion façade and devastating reality.
Assuming Chapman and Craig want to fight for their company’s survival, a hiatus from the runway as well as any press-facing alternative event is almost surely the best approach right now. The women should present to their retailers in closed appointments focused not only on the buy but on the strength of the relationship, the degree of client loyalty they can expect, and what measures can be taken to protect and deepen that loyalty. Then, they should hunker down and determine a strategy for the future. Whatever its particulars, any “updated format” presentation, perhaps even as basic as look-book distribution, will ooze clickbait. But not of the helpful, brand-recovery sort.