Marchesa’s Georgina Chapman is Happiest Designing Diamonds

All photography courtesy of Marchesa

Photo Credit: Marchesa
When Marchesa Co-Founder Georgina Chapman has a big idea at bedtime, she can’t sleep on it. Instead, she keeps a pad on her nightstand, on which she can immediately write down one of her frequent flashes of brilliance without fear of it disappearing.   

“When you’re a designer, every moment is an opportunity to take inspiration; you could be walking down the street or going to a museum. Often it comes late at night when you’re thinking and can’t sleep,” the 38-year-old couturier admits in her rich British accent. “If I don’t [write something down], I can’t stop thinking about it; I can’t let it go. [Keeping a pad by my bed] is always a good trick to have. A lot happens in the night.”

Though no one can quite pinpoint exactly what time of day she and longtime pal Keren Craig came up with the idea to launch their haute couture line Marchesa, suffice it to say that Chapman is a woman who has always dreamt big with her eyes wide open.

The two friends met while taking a life drawing class at London’s Chelsea College of Art and Design when they were 17. Chapman went on to graduate from the Wimbledon School of Art and began her career in costume design, while Craig received her degree from Brighton Art College with a focus on print and embroidery. Their respective sartorial educations, a desire to design, and perhaps even a spiritual awakening gave them the idea to start Marchesa during a vacation to India in 2003; the line was then established in 2004, more than ten years after their fateful first meeting.

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The pair has gone on to create high-end frocks for the biggest stars in the world—from Penelope Cruz, Jennifer Lopez, and Cameron Diaz to Kate Hudson, Halle Berry, and Rihanna—and partnered with the likes of Lenox and Le Métier de Beauté. They have grown their brand to incorporate handbags, wedding gowns, and the cocktail-friendly Notte collection of dresses. They have continued to create and collaborate, and on February 1st, launched the latest asset to their empire: the Marchesa Eternal Collection, a line of fine bridal jewelry.

“Keren and I have always wanted Marchesa to become a full lifestyle brand, and jewelry has always felt like a natural part of that brand to us. We have a very strong bridal business, and it felt the right time to really embrace that and go into different categories of bridal,” Chapman explains now from her Manhattan office. “For Keren and me, it’s also something we really enjoy—going into a new element of design and pushing our creativity. Besides, what girl doesn’t want to play with diamonds all day? It’s really been a fun project, and there’s nothing more exciting than creating something that you find beautiful.”

The collection, which is sold exclusively at Macy’s stores nationwide, includes engagement rings, wedding bands, pendants and earrings, with prices ranging from $1,400 to $28,000. The baubles perfectly complement the brand’s gowns, thanks to their elegant, romantic designs and glamorous, vintage-inspired detailing. 

Fashioning something that could, ostensibly, last forever was a big draw for Chapman, who was well up to the challenge of expanding her sartorial horizons. “The idea behind an engagement ring or a wedding ring is that it is a piece that you keep forever. It wants to feel timeless; it wants to feel eternal. [This collection provides] a little piece of Marchesa that someone can wear every day. They’re not going to walk around in an evening gown or a bridal gown every day.”

To Chapman, what sets the line’s pieces apart is an engraved star, which is meant to symbolize fantasy, romance, and hope. “We really felt that the element of the star reflected the idea of dreaming and of love; we thought it was a very unique component. We’re really proud of that,” she admits.

She also takes pride in that the Marchesa brand means something to women of all ages. “One of my favorite stories to tell is of a trunk show we once had. I had a 16-year-old girl who wanted to buy a Marchesa dress for the prom. At that same trunk show, I had an 85-year-old great-grandmother buy a gown for a party. It really spoke to me that women of all ages want to wear something that makes them feel fabulous.”

Chapman is a big believer in always feeling your best. If there is one thing she swears by, it is to wear something that makes you feel good. “My biggest fashion rule is to feel confident in what you’re wearing, and really feel good about yourself,” she says. “When a woman is confident, I always think she looks amazing. If you carry off what you’re wearing with confidence, you’ll sell it to the world. When you put your foot out the door, you’re representing who you are as a person with what you’re wearing.” 

With her raven hair, peaches-and-cream complexion, and sparkling blue eyes,  one might not believe that the same rule could apply to Georgina Chapman, but it does. Believe it or not,  this fashion designer to the stars also sometimes needs a little help from her friends in figuring out what to wear: she, like all women, wants to feel and look her best.  “If I’m getting ready for an event, I’ll try something on, and if I’m not sure what I want to wear, sometimes I’ll have Keren take a photograph. We’ll have a look and see what we think,” she confesses.

Though her clear path was always fashion, Chapman also had a brush with the big screen, with small roles in movies like Derailed, Factory Girl, Bride & Prejudice, and Match Point. Though she is married to movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, she says that it’s unlikely a side job in film is in the cards anymore.

“[My film career] was a long time ago! I really enjoyed it, but no one’s come knocking on my door. I couldn’t really imagine having the time for it now, but never say never in life!” she says.

Costuming a movie, however, is a different story. She did graduate with degrees in costume and set design, after all. “I would love to [costume a film] one day. It’s something that I really enjoy doing, but it’s a huge commitment to take on a project like that. It’s definitely on my list of things to do. I think I would be inclined to go to something period or stylistic. It would have to have an edge of fairytale or romance to it.”

This penchant for magic has carried over into all aspects of Chapman’s life, from her designs and desires, to her fairytale romance with Weinstein, the co-chairman of The Weinstein Company. The two began dating in December of 2004, married in 2007, and have two children together: four-year-old India Pearl, and 23-month-old son Dashiell Max Robert.

When asked the best gift she’s ever received aside from her children, Chapman is quick to respond, “My husband!” If said gift had to be tangible and not Harvey himself, it would then have to be something he gave her. “Seriously, the best gift I’ve ever received would have to be a Lucian Freud painting my husband gave me, or the vintage car he gave me this summer. It’s a dark blue 1960s Mercedes 280 SE four-seater. I had a two-seater, but with the kids I needed more space and had to get rid of it; he bought me the four-seat version instead. It’s so beautiful. I’ve always wanted that car; I was so excited about it.”

But truly, the best present the designer can ask for is time with her family. “The greatest luxury is lying down with my two kids and my husband, watching a movie. Just being with my family and my dog and a big glass of wine,” she says with a smile.

That fantasy will be soon be a reality now that the designer’s Fall/Winter New York Fashion Week show is over and she and her husband have finished making the obligatory Academy Awards week  rounds—events which, as it happened, occurred during the very same week.

Though some might consider such a schedule crazy, Chapman thrives on it, in part because she’s wired that way and partially because she’s happy to escape the east coast winter and enjoy a little California living—and dressing; she fully appreciates the fashion sensibilities of New Yorkers and Angelenos.

“I think that just even due to the differences of weather between New York and L.A., the fashion is totally different,” she notes. “L.A. has a more relaxed feel to it. New York is a little more polished and dressed up, while L.A. definitely has a more California-relaxed attitude.”

While she can’t comment on why brands like Dior and Tom Ford are deciding to show their collections in Los Angeles, Chapman does say, “I do think that New York Fashion Week is incredibly saturated. I don’t know whether or not that’s part of it, but [New York Fashion Week] is definitely on a very tight schedule, and there’s a bigger chance to breathe in L.A.”

The only time Chapman had a chance to breathe on her recent trip to Los Angeles appeared to be on the plane ride over: immediately following her February 18th show at the St. Regis Hotel, she jetted straight out to Los Angeles and helped her husband host a pre-Oscar party at The Montage Beverly Hills.

Two huge events in a four-day period might faze most people, but not Chapman, who expresses only excitement about the ebb and flow of her life. “Do you know what? When you love what you do, [the hectic schedule] is part of it. It’s exciting,” she swears, adding, “The day that I don’t find it exciting is the day I shouldn’t be doing this anymore.”

Something tells us that Georgina Chapman will be sartorially thrill-seeking for a very, very long time.