Last week, Marchesa and Marchesa Notte quietly released pre-Fall lookbooks, taking no appointments to see the actual garments. The dresses are breathtaking and showstopping, but Marchesa’s silence in the #MeToo Movement has set an extremely negative precedent, especially in light of the fashion house’s sketchy origins.
Georgina Chapman, Harvey Weinstein’s soon-to-be ex-wife, along with her business partner Keren Craig, is a founder of the brand that was catapulted into a red carpet staple with Weinstein’s success. For a time, nearly every actress in Weinstein’s movies were seen wearing the gowns on the red carpet and to elite events. In fact, several actresses have come forward to say they were coerced into wearing the gowns as part of their contract with the once powerhouse Hollywood studio.
Almost immediately after the Weinstein scandal became more than just private whispers among Hollywood elite, Georgina quickly announced her divorce from the high-profile filmmaker. She separated herself from his actions and requested privacy for the sake of her young children. Georgina’s statement read, “My heart breaks for all the women who have suffered tremendous pain because of these unforgivable actions. I have chosen to leave my husband. Caring for my young children is my first priority and I ask the media for privacy at this time.”
While Chapman may indeed be a victim in her husband’s massive scandal, it’s difficult not to ask whether someone so intimate and close with a man like Weinstein could truly be blind to his behaviors. If she was indeed aware, that is something for which she should be held accountable. After all, a blind eye is no different than an accomplice. With the high-end brand profiting off power and Marchesa gaining notoriety from the same women Weinstein assaulted, the brand is not free from the smear of oppression and power dynamics.
To understand the scope of Weinstein’s power, just look at the fashion choices his power inspired.
Octavia Spencer, for example, wore a custom-made Marchesa dress that took over 700 hours to create for the 2017 Academy Awards, when she was nominated for her supporting actress role in Hidden Figures. Surprisingly, it was the first time the star, who is notoriously loyal to designer Tadashi Shoji, had “options.” But Weinstein’s influence went beyond his wife’s fashion brand, as he had worked with the executive producer of Hidden Figures, Donna Gigliotti, twice (as a production exec and as a production president). In light of those circumstances, one has to wonder what’s choice and what’s force, especially when your next job could be on the line.
For another actress, Sienna Miller, it was reportedly made quite clear to her that her job was on the line if she didn’t wear Marchesa. She starred in Factory Girl, a Weinstein-produced movie, and was invited to sit at his table in 2007 for the Golden Globe Awards. According to a publicist, the message relayed to Miller was. if she didn’t wear Marchesa, Weinstein “would be very upset.” To understand what “very upset” entails, one need not look far. In a similar incident, an LA-based publicist revealed to the Hollywood Reporter, that Weinstein told Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman he would pull publicity funding from the 2005 movie, Transamerica, if she didn’t wear Marchesa.
In light of these incidents, in the same way we require brands to be responsible with the images and marketing they produce, we must require them to be responsible with their practices. And that extends beyond Marchesa. Fashion designers and brands have failed the #MeToo Movement, serving as a vapid participants, miming back 140-character tweets and thinking that online presence means support.
At the 2018 Golden Globe Awards, despite the array of fashion designers black clothing represented on the red carpet, reportedly only two brands, Calvin Klein and Prabal Gurung donated to the #TimesUp Movement. Unfortunately, this is just another example of how the fight against sexual assault is something the fashion industry has catered to in private and is placating in public.
Fashion, not only socially, but also physically touches the people. That intimacy requires responsibility and there won’t be real change until fashion companies take action and become more accountable for their executive decisions. Moda Operandi should be ashamed of themselves for placing the Marchesa collection for pre-order on their site. Companies like Rent The Runway and department stores need to stop carrying Marchesa and Marchesa Notte, rather than sustaining these brands and making them options for the same women that are crying #MeToo.