Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal

Fashion world shaken by revelations

Producer Harvey Weinstein resigned on Tuesday from the board of the movie and television studio he helped to found

Harvey Weinstein and his wife Georgina Chapman at the 88th annual Academy Awards last year. Weinstein was expelled from the Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts And Sciences last Saturday.
Harvey Weinstein and his wife Georgina Chapman at the 88th annual Academy Awards last year. Weinstein was expelled from the Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts And Sciences last Saturday.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

NEW YORK • Harvey Weinstein, more than perhaps any film executive of the modern era, seemed to understand the role fashion could play as he built an upmarket brand in which box-office performance was important, but so were glitter and good reviews.

He introduced Project Runway, the fashion reality show that made stars out of designer Michael Kors, model Heidi Klum and editor Nina Garcia. Along with shoe designer Tamara Mellon, Weinstein was instrumental in the revival of Halston, for which he corralled actress Sarah Jessica Parker, celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe - who often dressed her clients in Marchesa, the label co-founded by his wife Georgina Chapman - and private-equity firm Hilco as partners.

He licensed the option to revive the Charles James brand the same year the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art featured a Charles James exhibition.

When actresses from his films campaigned for Oscars, guess whose dresses they often wore?

"We all knew celebrities were asked to wear Marchesa if they were in a Weinstein movie," said the co-owner of a fashion communications company who asked not to be identified. "They were supposed to wear it at least once. We all knew that cycle."

In the days since The New York Times broke the story of allegations of decades of harassment and assault by Weinstein, torrents of stories have poured forth from at least 30 women who say they were victimised by him. So have condemnations from many who worked with him or benefited from their relationship with him - in film and Democratic political circles.

We all knew celebrities were asked to wear Marchesa if they were in a Weinstein movie.


"Behaviour like this is appalling and unacceptable," said Anna Wintour, artistic director of Conde Nast, breaking her silence on the issue. "I feel horrible about what these women have experienced and admire their bravery in coming forward. My heart goes out to them, as well as to Georgina and the children. We all have a role to play in creating safe environments where everyone can be free to work without fear."

She has put stars of Weinstein's films on more than a dozen of her Vogue covers over the years; prominently featured Marchesa in her magazine; and hosted political fund-raisers with him.

Her words make all the more stark the realisation that from fashion - the third pillar of Weinstein's power base, an industry in which he made major investments going back more than 15 years - the overwhelming response has been a ringing silence.

"I've been struck by it," said Mr Steven Kolb, chief executive of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). After all, many fashion stakeholders spoke out vociferously earlier this year against United States President Donald Trump's policies on women's rights.

But aside from Donna Karan, who gave statements that first defended and then criticised Weinstein, few designers have ventured as much.

Nor has any of the major retailers who sell Marchesa spoken up, not even to offer support to Chapman, who has announced she is separating from her husband.

For his part, Weinstein acknowledged, in a larger statement to The New York Post, that his actions could have a negative impact on Chapman's company. Marchesa's public profile depended largely on its connection to Hollywood - the label does not advertise - and, fair or not, Chapman and her line are now swept up in this unfolding story.

The refrain from major department stores in response to requests for comment? "We just don't want to be part of this story."

But that is unavoidable. Fashion is already deeply involved.

Last Tuesday, a petition was begun by social network Care2 asking Nordstrom to drop the Donna Karan and DKNY lines in response to Karan's comments (though she herself is no longer involved with either label).

Going back to his days at Miramax, the first of two studios Weinstein co-founded, he put out fashion-themed films. In 1994, he released director Robert Altman's Pret-a-Porter.

In 2009, he acquired the North American distribution rights for A Single Man, designer Tom Ford's debut film. In 2011, he acquired singer Madonna's W.E., a period drama in which the gowns were almost the only thing that got good notices.

Ford said: "I knew Harvey certainly liked beautiful young women.

"I had no idea of his predatory and abusive behaviour or that he had paid settlements to anyone."

Parker, who collaborated with Weinstein at Halston, said: "Over the last two decades, through various projects, I've always maintained a relationship with him that I was, for the most part, comfortable with. Now, I feel he is a stranger, that I didn't know him at all. And desperately sad to hear how so many women have suffered."

Now, Marchesa has become yet another symbol of Weinstein's abuse of power, a brand he helped mastermind and support.

There is now a #boycottmarchesa hashtag on Twitter. Helzberg Diamonds, which held the licence for Marchesa's bridal jewellery, said it had delayed the planned line.

"The relationship helped the business tremendously," said Stellene Volandes, editor of Town & Country. "Marchesa had such great success on the red carpet and became known for that." (Chapman appeared on the cover of the magazine in 2009.)

The label - founded in 2004 by Chapman and Keren Craig - first received real attention that year, when actress Renee Zellweger, star of the Miramax film Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason, appeared on the red carpet in a Marchesa dress. She was followed shortly thereafter by Cate Blanchett, who wore Marchesa to the Rome premiere of The Aviator, also produced by Miramax.

Chapman married Weinstein in 2007.

In recent years, Marchesa's red-carpet magic has dimmed and its celebrity placements have lost a bit of their star power, yet the label's princess-y dresses still found takers.

This year, Octavia Spencer, who has appeared in movies produced by Weinstein, wore a custom Marchesa gown to the Academy Awards, when she was nominated for her role in Hidden Figures.

Hollywood stylists who work with such stars and fashion houses to find dresses for premieres, award shows and red-carpet events appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach on the label. Of a half-dozen top stylists who have used Marchesa, not one would comment on how the Weinstein revelations would affect their use of Marchesa.

"There's a mob mentality that has developed," said Ms Lauren Santo Domingo, a founder of Moda Operandi, an online fashion retailer, who said she was standing behind Marchesa.

Last Wednesday, the brand postponed a planned preview of its spring 2018 collection to an unspecified "later date". The company is hunkering down and could not be reached for comment.

"I think the issue is no one knows what to say to Georgina or the words to use," Mr Kolb said. "But as a creative power and as a CFDA member, she is someone who deserves the industry's support and backing."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2017, with the headline 'Fashion world shaken by revelations '. Subscribe