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 Georgina Chapman: designer to the stars

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PostSubject: Georgina Chapman: designer to the stars   Georgina Chapman: designer to the stars EmptyMon Jan 17, 2011 5:18 am


Georgina Chapman: designer to the stars Maininside_1800371a


Georgina Chapman: designer to the stars Maincover_1800370a

Georgina Chapman: designer to the stars W-harvey_1800381a
Georgina Chapman: designer to the stars With-bus-part-corb_1800375aGeorgina Chapman: designer to the stars

At the Golden Globes tonight any number of stars might be wearing
Georgina Chapman's dresses for Marchesa. The Brit girl talks about how
she seduced Hollywood.
Sitting opposite Georgina Chapman in the West Village studio where her
multimillion dollar business resides, it is hard not to feel just the
tiniest bit grubby.
While the rest of New York is a sea of Michelin Men, wrapped up in layer
upon layer to combat the freeze, the designer and co-founder of the
red-carpet fashion label Marchesa looks impeccable. She is wearing a
white Lanvin blouse (white, she says, to mask her five-month-old
daughter's sick, and Lanvin, because, well, just because), black leather
Helmut Lang trousers and a pair of heeled black and white Louboutin
brogues, which are very Bugsy Malone
Her hair is advert glossy and her face is perfect, like a less
bloodthirsty Angelina Jolie. She has not lost any of her British
public-school accent to New York in the five years she has been there
and her laugh comes often, loudly, and is extraordinarily infectious.

She takes me on a tour of the Marchesa studio. There is her corner
office, overlooking Manhattan (the Empire State Building out of one
window, a bottle of Ribena in front of another) filled with odes to her
family - a cot, framed photographs of Chapman, 34, and her husband, the
film mogul Harvey Weinstein, and a wall filled with A4 portraits of
their baby, India.

We walk through the dressmaking studio, where mannequins are sheathed in
silks, satins, netting and beads, down corridors lined with Louboutins -
the footwear worn at every Marchesa catwalk show - and into the
reception where some of the label's best pieces are on display alongside
a new line of floral-printed china, evening bags and make-up. It is an
impressive set-up, yet still intimate enough for Chapman to know all of
her 40 staff by name.

In the six years since its inception, Marchesa, named after the
flamboyant Belle Epoque heiress Marchesa Luisa Casati, has come to rule
the red carpet. At tonight's Golden Globes awards there will be a
smattering of starlets wearing Chapman's show-stopping designs, although
exactly who, she says, she may not know until days before the event.

At last year's Oscars Sandra Bullock picked up her Best Actress
statuette in Marchesa, declaring on Oprah that wearing the gold, beaded
gown was a 'once-in-a-lifetime opportunitye_SSRq. In the past year the
label has been worn by twentysomethings Rihanna, Blake Lively and
Kristen Stewart, and red-carpet faithfuls such as Sarah Jessica Parker
and Demi Moore. Together with her business partner and friend from art
school in London, Keren Craig, Chapman has created the big-night-out
brand for the rich and famous, and those with a credit card that can
take it.

'I am a control freak,' she says, with that gutsy laugh. Is she a
workaholic? 'No… well, yes, I am.' Another laugh. 'New York is very
career-orientated and it's hard to take time off here, but that is great
for building a business. When you're doing something like this, you're
never away from your work; you think about it all the time.'

Chapman's work ethic mirrors that of Weinstein. While she will be
dressing the A-list for the Golden Globes, the studio head will
doubtless be scooping up awards. His films The King's Speech and Blue
Valentine are up for 10 Globes between them.

While Weinstein's reputation among his peers is of a man who knows what
he wants, and who is unafraid to speak his mind, Chapman positively
radiates praise for him as a husband.

'I feel as if I don't work at all around Harvey,' she says. 'I feel like
the laziest person when I see his schedule. What I love about my
husband is that he really allows me to be the best person I can. He's
never, ever tried to stop me or keep me down. He's just so supportive.
He's got this amazing ability where I always feel safe with him, and
that allows you to go forth in life and do things that perhaps you
wouldn't have had the courage to do before. He is also extremely
business-savvy and an incredible sounding-board. Being older, he has a
lot more experience than I do. He has this huge wealth of knowledge.
He's like an encyclopedia, and he's got such an exciting mind, which I
find very attractive.'

Weinstein is 24 years older than Chapman, to be precise. The two have
been together since 2005, and married in 2007 in Connecticut, where they
have a house. Superficially, it is an unusual marriage, and it would be
easy to dismiss Chapman as a trophy bride. Weinstein's contacts
certainly haven't hindered her success, yet it is her determination that
has made Marchesa what it is today. She started the business in her
west London flat, making one-off dresses for a small customer base,
before moving to a tiny office in Soho. She then approached Tamara
Mellon of Jimmy Choo to get advice on making her label a global success.

'Tamara said that she went out to the Peninsula [Hotel] in Los Angeles
at awards season, met with all the stylists and got her shoes on girls
for the red carpet,' she tells me. 'So Keren and I went out to the
Peninsula, and set up our dresses, of which there were only about 10,
and met people, one being [the celebrity stylist] Rachel Zoe. Then we
got in touch with a publicist called Nanci Ryder and asked her to
represent us. Renée Zellweger happened to be one of her clients, and she
told us to send her sketches. Renée chose one and she was the first
celebrity to wear Marchesa.'

Nowadays that celebrity endorsement is invaluable to their business.
Unlike many of their red-carpet rivals, Marchesa does not advertise,
instead relying on coverage of its dresses at events to spread the word.
'When we first launched Marchesa it was really about utilising coverage
of events in the weekly magazines to get our name out there.' Chapman
has worked extraordinarily hard to make her company a success. Three
days after giving birth to her and Weinstein's first child in August
last year she was back at work doing final fittings for New York fashion
week.

'I don't really remember anything about that time. It's all a bit of a
fog,' she says, taking a bite of cherry cake and a sip from the
disgusting-looking NanoGreens energy drink she swears by. 'I had a week
off after fashion week, but then we do bridal, which shows four weeks
later. It's amazing to have a career like this, but you can't have
everything. I want to be a mother as well, so you have to make it work. I
couldn't just say, "See ya!" to everyone for three months. I'm so lucky
to have this career, so I can't complain about not taking maternity
leave.'

She brings India to the studio as much as possible. She tells me,
excitedly, that the baby will be coming in at the end of our interview
so I can say hello. Sure enough, an hour later a nanny arrives with the
tiny Weinstein, hair almost as glossy and thick as her mother's and the
same blue, blue eyes. Chapman is clearly completely besotted. She had
some training in parenthood prior to India's birth; when she married
Weinstein she inherited three stepdaughters, Lily, 15, Emma, 13, and
Ruthie, eight, from his first marriage.

'I love children. I've always loved children,' she says. 'In my
relationship before, I was living with somebody for several years and he
had a little boy who was with us a lot. In life you just go with things
and as long as you try to be as kind as you can and treat kids like you
would want your own kids to be treated, and keep your fingers crossed,
that's all you can do. But I'm very lucky; they're great kids.'

Chapman herself grew up in Richmond, south-west London, in what sounds
like an idyllic family set-up. She attended Marlborough, the same school
as Kate Middleton, whose wedding dress, she says, she would 'love to be
considered for' (she also made 'about 10' dresses for Coleen Rooney's
never-ending nuptials). She went to art school in Chelsea, then, after a
brief stint waitressing, working as a cloakroom attendant and
sharpening skis in the dingy basement of a sports shop, she was spotted
and asked to model, something she did for six years, with a little bit
of acting on the side.

Her father, an entrepreneur, and mother, a journalist, encouraged their
daughter to follow her dreams into the fashion world. Her younger
brother, Edward, is the chief executive of Marchesa and lives in New
York, where they have just bought their mother an apartment so that she
can spend a few months of the year 'and help baby-sit.

'Family is incredibly important to me,' she says. 'My childhood really
instilled that. That is why my brother and I work together. My parents
were great in letting me be what I wanted to be. My mum said I was
playing with fabric and scissors and drawing from the age of three or
four. She was the one who packed my bags and sent me off travelling for
two years when I was 19. Now I am a mother I think that was so brave of
her. I look at my daughter and think I could never do that. Never leave
me!'

Chapman tries to get back to London as much as possible, usually four
times a year, although her travel plans are hampered by an unfashionable
fear of flying. 'I've got much better recently,' she says. 'When I was
pregnant one of my main things was, "How am I going to be able to do
this without a drink or a Xanax?" I thought the fear alone might hurt
the baby, so I pulled myself together and I was fine for the first time
in my life. I used to get hysterical. The more I flew, the worse it
would get, because I'd think, "I've got away with it so many times. Now
something's bound to happen." But
I miss London a lot, and it's still home to me.'

The speed with which Chapman's label has come to adorn the backs of the
world's most fashionable is quite incredible, even to her. 'I thought I
would just be designing one-off dresses for people and having a small
business,' she says. 'You dream of getting to one place, and then you
think, "Ooh, there's another level," and suddenly I'm doing plates and
handbags. But I still love walking into a party and seeing that someone
has actually bought one of my dresses, as much as dressing somebody for
the Oscars. It is important to step back and think, "Actually, this is
really amazing and exciting," and to appreciate what you have, because
otherwise what is the point in doing it? There are times when I get
starstruck, like when we were at the White House for a private Paul
McCartney concert. I was pregnant at the time, and I remember thinking,
"I can't wait to tell my daughter she's been to the White House." So
there are times when I still find things really exciting, and there are
times when I'm just exhausted.'

Exhausted she may be, but it is unlikely that her schedule will slow
down in the near future. Perhaps you can have it all, perhaps you can't,
but while Chapman is figuring it out, for now pinning dresses with one
hand and holding a baby with the other is just how she will have to
manage.

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