Fashion designer Georgina Chapman loves the art of dressing up and wishes the late eclectic heiress—and label’s namesake—Marchesa Luisa Casati could wear her designs today. Photographs by Billy Kidd. Styled by Laura Jones. Shot on location at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City.
Designer Georgina Chapman remembers being taken to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London by her mother as a young girl. “I was just absorbed in there for hours,” says London-born Chapman, as she settles into a drawing room at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City. “I was fascinated by the clothing and its history, which is ultimately why I went onto study costume design.” One needn’t look much further than the line’s otherworldly fall collection, inspired by the William-Adolphe Bouguereau painting A Soul Brought to Heaven, for proof of Chapman’s affinity for a bit of, well, costume drama. This season, the deeply romantic collection was marked by skeleton-embroidered tulle bodysuits, laser-cut black leather detailing, swishing full tulle skirts, and sheer lace paneling. “Keren [Craig, her co-founder] and I looked at a lot of religious iconography and paintings in churches and took a lot of references from the angels and Baroque beading,” says Chapman.
For the duo, who started Marchesa in 2004, and have known one another since they were 17 (“we’re practically sisters,” she says), the design process each season is completely organic. Craig studied textile design and Chapman costume, so the two come together in their design studio just as effortlessly as their work seemingly floats down the runway. “I do all the designing and concepts and Keren does all the embroideries,” Chapman explains. “We don't put rules in place because it inhibits creativity.”
While Chapman, who is married to film industry mogul Harvey Weinstein, has more occasions than most to wear a frothy party frock on the red carpet, the finely-boned beauty insists that a description of her personal style can’t really be whittled down to a few key phrases. “I’m obsessed with ’30s tea dresses at the moment, and during the day I’m running around the office and spend a lot of time draping on the mannequin, so I’m not running around in high heels because that wouldn’t be practical.”
And given her love of historical design, it’s no surprise that she’s a great fan of vintage and has amassed a considerable amount of carefully collected ladylike Chanel jackets, silk Hermès blouses, and Gucci caftans, as well as dresses from the ’20s and ’30s. “Thankfully the Internet is such an amazing source. I can shop for vintage in bed, which is wonderful,” Chapman says laughing.
While Marchesa maintains a healthy special-order business and a roster of faithful celebrity clients such as Blake Lively, Jennifer Lopez, and Diane Kruger, Chapman says she most enjoys hearing about how a dress makes a woman feel sexy, whether its going to appear on the red carpet, or simply for a special occasion. She says that when she’s asked to give style advice, she’s hesitant to do so for fear of deterring one’s originality. “I would hate to tell everyone, ‘You should wear a tight black jean and flats, and a nice jacket,’” she says. “The world would be such a sad place if everyone dressed the same way.”
As for Chapman, she plans on continuing to push boundaries, dress new starlets, and keep growing the Marchesa brand. “This is just what I’ve always wanted to do,” she says. “There was never a question of whether or not I was going to do it. I just have.” —Nandita Khanna (@dresslikenan)
Georgina Chapman was photographed with models Ines Culibrk, Marlijn Hoek, Erika Kundrotaite, Maria Port, and Sarah Sampaio of Women Direct at Cipriani Wall Street. Georgina Chapman's hair by Jim Crawford and makeup by Mark Edio. Models' hair by Marco Maranghello and makeup by Sabrina Ziomi.