I'm Sorry, Georgina Chapman
As Harvey Weinstein's name begins to reappear across national headlines in light of his recent arrest, I have begun the process of reexamining and reconciling my own opinions about Georgina Chapman – his wife of over ten years and the co-founder of Marchesa. When news initially began to break of sexual assault, harassment and misconduct allegations against Weinstein, Chapman found herself thrusted into the spotlight. How could she not have known? That was, of course, the question on almost everyone's mind (my own included).
And, in the moment, it felt a fair thing to ask. How could a wife never have seen the wicked side of her husband – now highlighted by over eighty accusers? Surely she must have been aware of some of his antics? Or at least heard the rumors? It didn't seem feasible that a man could conceal such a prominent part of himself so skillfully, especially from his own wife.
Further damning Chapman was Weinstein's messy relationship with Marchesa itself. Georgina started the fashion house before she met Harvey, but it was only through his help that she was able to transform it into the globally recognized brand it has become. Stars of Weinstein-backed productions, including Renée Zellweger, Cate Blanchett, and Blake Lively, have worn Marchesa on the red carpet, and rumors have floated for years that Weinstein pushed actresses to don the fashion brand.
So did Chapman benefit from Weinstein's bullying and therefore decide to turn a blind eye to his assault? This seemed the logical conclusion.
But it was an unfair, and hypocritical, one. It took me an interview in Vogue with Chapman herself to recognize that:
"'There was a part of me that was terribly naive—clearly, so naive. I have moments of rage, I have moments of confusion, I have moments of disbelief! And I have moments when I just cry for my children. What are their lives going to be?' She has been crying through most of this, and now she breaks down into sobs loud enough that her assistant appears with a box of tissues. 'What are people going to say to them?' She is crying so hard she has to take a moment. 'It’s like, they love their dad. They love him.' It is almost unbearable to witness, this broken person in front of me. 'I just can’t bear it for them!'"
Reading those lines, I felt as though I'd been punched in the gut. Here was a mother facing unimaginable heartache. The lives her children face will be challenging in ways I cannot even empathize with. They are still gifted with immense monetary privilege. But they, quite literally though their surname, will have to bear the burden of their father's crimes.
Chapman went on to speak about her direct response to the allegations against Weinstein:
She fled to LA with the children, and then settled in London (her hometown), at first with longtime friend David Oyelowo, and then with her parents.
In the interview, Oyelowo spoke about how "the thing that was the most difficult to witness was that she quite rightly took the stance of not going out there and defending herself, because there was just too much white noise and too much bile headed in her general direction. She felt, How dare I raise my head and say, 'Oh, by the way, I’m suffering too?'"
So she decided to step back, and in doing so she had to taper down Marchesa as well. She cancelled Marchesa’s fall 2018 collection, claiming that she "didn’t feel it was appropriate given the situation." She acknowledged that "all the women who have been hurt deserve dignity and respect" and said she wanted "to give it the time it deserves." As Chapman aptly put it; "it’s a time for mourning, really."
But the question running through so many fashionably-minded people's brains at the time was how long would this last? Could a star really ever be caught on the red carpet again in a Marchesa dress? For a long while, the resounding answer was no. And, in many ways, that made sense to me. How could the brand come back from this, given their complex and codependent relationship with a monster?
And then Chapman got the help of the ultimate queen of fashion – Anna Wintour. Wintour, clearly upset with the way Chapman had been wronged – and also perhaps worried about her own image given her close relationships with recently-accused photographers Mario Testino, Terry Richardson & Bruce Weber – chose to take Chapman under her wing. She organized a Vogue interview and wrote a June editor's letter solely focused on Chapman. And then, by no coincidence I'm sure, Scarlett Johansson sported Marchesa to the annual Met Ball.
And thus, the comeback began. Yet, what's been so remarkable about the way it's played out is that it hasn't felt manufactured. Chapman's interview with Vogue was candid to the core. She laughed, she cried and she opened up in ways that took me off guard.
I went into the piece full of doubts. I doubted her innocence. I doubted her motives. I doubted her humanity. And I came out with a different outlook. Here is a woman wronged. Wronged by her husband, by society, and – most difficult to admit of all – by me. Reading over her words, a self-correction stuck with me. Talking of Weinstein paying for a friend of her's mother's cancer therapy, Chapman noted "he was amazing like that. He is amazing like that. That is the tough part of this . . . this black-and-white thing . . . life isn’t like that."
What she underlines is an important pill for all of us to swallow. Weinstein may well be a monster in our eyes, but he wasn't in hers – and he doesn't suddenly become one now. Handling that complexity must be difficult. Difficult in ways I can't begin to imagine. And for that, among so many other things, Chapman deserves my respect, my applause, and an apology. I'm sorry, Georgina Chapman.
Feature image and full interview can be found at Vogue.