Convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein was sentenced this week to 23 years in jail, a charge that delighted spectators who had justifiably been cynical about the disgraced producer’s fate. While it is likely that Weinstein and his well-paid gaggle of lawyers will appeal, the chances are that he, one of the entertainment industry’s most infamous abusers, will die behind bars.
It’s unlikely that we will ever truly unpack the loaded and tangled legacy of Harvey Weinstein. It still feels too soon on many levels and the immense reach he had across the worlds of film, TV, politics, journalism, and much more for several decades is tough to fully convey. The big bad wolf of Hollywood had tendrils that spread far and wide, giving him a level of power that always seemed questionable but is downright obscene in hindsight. We’ve all forgotten for a reason but there was a time in the mid-to-late 2000s were the general media consensus was one of positivity for Harvey. People in the business were rooting for him to have a comeback after he stepped away from Miramax to form The Weinstein Company. Never bet against Harvey, so the narrative went. It didn’t hurt that he was greasing the wheels in his usual manner, but this time around, he had a new angle: The reformed family man with his beautiful wife proudly by his side.
And that brings us to Georgina Chapman.
As Weinstein sat in the courtroom, tabloids of solid repute began writing about the former Mrs. Harvey Weinstein’s blossoming romance with Oscar-winning actor Adrien Brody. Rumors had swirled for a while in less reliable sources but now it seems official, and in the same week of Weinstein’s sentencing, we had a piece in People where Chapman allegedly described her new beau as ‘unusual and interesting.’ It’s a strange choice of words that makes him sound more like a lab specimen than a boyfriend, but the most curious aspect of the story was the timing. With her marriage firmly over and Weinstein off to Riker’s Island, this felt like Chapman and her team’s way of fully disassociating themselves from the carnage. She’s moved on, and with another Oscar-winner, a former heart-throb who infamously bought one of his girlfriends a full-on castle (a story I am obsessed with to this day.)
The second Mrs. Weinstein split from her husband shortly after Ronan Farrow’s expose in The New Yorker revealed the horrifying extent of Weinstein’s abuses. Up until that point, following the report by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey in The New York Times, she seemed ready to stand by her man, and that didn’t seem especially shocking since even the most optimistic of us were still sure that this story would go away and leave only the tiniest of impacts on the world at large. Chapman, the co-founder of Marchesa, took her two children and stepped away from the limelight as #MeToo dominated the landscape. When she eventually stepped back into the world of high fashion, she played a savvy game that felt all too necessary for someone like her. One year later, with the backing of Vogue, she spoke about her shock over Weinstein’s behavior, which she denied prior knowledge of, and the troubles of trying to explain to their children their father’s fate. It’s a revealing profile in the way that all celebrity profiles built on PR are, but it did its job in helping to further distance Chapman from the carnage.
Discussing Georgina Chapman in the context of Harvey Weinstein is a perilous task. It’s unfair and dehumanizing to connect her to her ex’s crimes without proof or context, especially in how that action robs Weinstein of his own agency. We have no idea what kind of marriage they had or how he treated her behind closed doors, although she has insisted that nothing bad happened to her during that time. Young children are involved too, kids who will eventually have to wrestle with the agonizing reality of understanding that their dad is one of the most hated men of the 21st century. I’m not interested in forcing a narrative onto Georgina Chapman that does not fit or make sense simply because of her status as the former Mrs. Weinstein. However, it would be naïve of us to overlook that title, the power associated with that, and how the Weinstein Power Couple PR helped to cushion Harvey’s bullying in a new layer of softness and approachability.
It is in another fawning profile from Vogue in 2013 that we see how the new era of Weinstein rested heavily on the presence of Chapman. Titled ‘Magic Kingdom’, the piece is an obvious attempt to portray Chapman’s life and everyone in it as the ultimate fairy-tale, the woman whose days are as magical as the dresses she designs. Chapman ‘casts an enchanting spell’ as Weinstein ‘lays a protective hand on his wife’s back’ and friends talk about the ‘genuine love’ between the pair. Also happening around this time, Weinstein had been creating his own PR around his supposed ‘calming down’, in large part thanks to his new marriage and the success seen by The Weinstein Company after a tough few years of downturn. One of The Weinstein Company’s biggest successes from this era: Project Runway All Stars, on which Chapman acted as a judge. Now, Harvey was supposedly calmer, happier, far less of the bulldog he’d been during the peak of Miramax’s power: The big bad wolf tamed by the beautiful princess. The Beauty and the Beast headlines were plentiful.
Weinstein’s bullying and harassment of practically everyone around him has been extensively documented for years now. one of the less-discussed elements of his stronghold over the women who he professionally, emotionally, and often physically abused is in the use of fashion, including the Marchesa brand. Weinstein even bragged about the arm-twisting he did to get Renee Zellweger to wear one of Chapman’s dresses to the premiere of the second Bridget Jones movie. It later came out that some women were essentially bullied into donning these outfits against their will lest Weinstein hurt their careers as he’d done before to so many actresses. Sienna Miller faced similar wrath and so did Jennifer Aniston.
Chapman has never really discussed this aspect of her professional and personal life, although it’s clear that she must have known about it given that Weinstein bragged about it in her Vogue profile. It’s an aspect of Weinstein’s clout that casts a particular shadow over the reputation of Marchesa to this day. True love or otherwise, the Weinstein-Chapman marriage was undoubtedly also an opportunity for a mutually beneficial expansion of their respective brands, one that proved to be immensely successful. In a cutthroat world like fashion, one where even the biggest names can go bust, one must wonder if Marchesa can stay afloat when nobody is forced to wear it.
Marchesa and Chapman respectively have their fans. Scarlett Johansson wore the brand to the Met Gala. Their runway shows are still extensively covered by the fashion press, even after the company’s co-founder Karen Craig stepped down last year. These events are more low-key but the love remains. It doesn’t hurt that fashion and style are still seen as frivolities in the grand scheme of power and entertainment, and that Weinstein’s machinations involving the world of the runway are categorized as some of his ‘lesser’ misdemeanors. For now, Chapman has escaped Weinstein’s shadow. The fairy-tale gets a redo but remains as tangled as ever.
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