Belfast Telegraph

Will Hollywood's A-listers now shun Georgina's luxury dresses?

She went to the same school as the Duchess of Cambridge and Samantha Cameron, but can London-born fashion designer Georgina Chapman, who has left her husband - the shamed movie mogul Harvey Weinstein - survive the controversy?

By Phoebe Luckhurst and Susannah Butter

After Oscar winners Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow added their testimonies to a long list of women accusing movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment, Weinstein's wife, London-born designer Georgina Chapman, released a statement.

"My heart breaks for all the women who have suffered tremendous pain because of these unforgivable actions," said the 41-year-old founder of luxury brand Marchesa. "I have chosen to leave my husband. Caring for my young children is my first priority and I ask the media for privacy at this time."

Weinstein and Chapman have two children: India Pearl (7) and Dashiell Max Robert, who turned four in April. She spent summer with them at Amangasett in the Hamptons, teaching them to ride horses and playing with their dogs Myrtle and Rockie on the beach. It's been a busy time for Chapman, who is in the middle of launching Marchesa's new bridal collection. The dresses are expected to be popular with those who recognise the brand from the red carpet - it's a staple with actresses, many of whom work with Weinstein.

"Georgina loved him, she must be devastated," said one west Londoner, who knows members of Chapman's extended set. Another added: "She is so charming, she's kind and gentle and so British. I'm completely shocked that she didn't know about it. Perhaps she turned a blind eye but she strikes me as being too kind to do that."

"The sheer volume of accusations is impossible to ignore," said a fashion industry insider who met her when she came to London to show her collection. "It's her I feel for."

As a fashion designer, Chapman has been happy to operate behind the scenes, letting her flamboyant dresses speak for themselves. Now she has been thrust into the limelight.

Chapman founded Marchesa, named after socialite Marchesa Luisa Casati, in 2004 with her friend Keren Craig, who she met at Chelsea College of Art. The brand's rise was meteoric, and cannot be seen in isolation from Weinstein, who is said to have encouraged actresses to wear it on the red carpet.

The year it was founded was also the year that Chapman started going out with Weinstein. They met at a party, she had no idea who he was but has said he "was so charismatic, it sort of draws you in". The same year, Renee Zellweger wore a red strapless cocktail dress by the newly launched label to the premiere of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. Chapman has said this was a turning point for the brand.

She has an estimated worth of £15m. A fashion journalist said: "Marchesa is well-regarded, very Hollywood and a go-to label for red-carpet events." It's popular with everyone from the Duchess of Cambridge to Bette Midler.

A journalist who interviewed Chapman in the mid-2000s, when Marchesa was starting out, recalled: "In my naivete I asked her 'How did you get all these amazing celebs to wear your gowns?' She did a good poker face and said something modest about how lucky she was. When I got back to the office I found out she was dating Harvey Weinstein. Instantly I understood. Without doubt, his power helped get her dresses on the right celebrities."

"He wasn't exactly subtle about asking Miramax's female stars to wear Marchesa on the red carpet," a fashion insider told Page Six after the allegations were published. "And if the studio chief of your movies asked you to wear a certain designer, wouldn't you want to accommodate him?"

Weinstein talked about Chapman's career with Vogue in 2013. "Maybe I helped, but just very, very little, with Renee Zellweger," he said.

Chapman grew up in Richmond, born in 1976 to journalist Caroline Wonfor and millionaire businessman Brian Chapman, who co-owned fairtrade organic coffee company Percol.

A former intern at the Weinstein Company's London office remembers Chapman's mother as glamorous, "a sort of ageing 'It girl'", and Chapman has spoken of her mother's influence on her, remembering trips to Peter Jones in Sloane Square. "She would let me pick out her outfits. That was back when the punk kids were hanging out in Chelsea: I used to love that." She's close to her younger brother Edward, who is now the CEO of Marchesa.

Chapman attended Marlborough College, the boarding school whose alumna include the Duchess of Cambridge and Samantha Cameron, and thrived there. She had several part-time jobs before being spotted by a modelling agent. Subsequently, she picked up pocket money doing commercial shoots for brands including Head and Shoulders. At 18, she spent two years travelling, trekking through the Himalayas.

In her teens she taught herself to sew and studied costume design at Chelsea School of Art, where she ran with a fun set. She was 28 when she met Weinstein. He had just left his first wife and former assistant Eve Chilton, with whom he had three children.

Chapman and Weinstein got married in 2007 in Connecticut and until now, their marriage had been - publicly - stable.

The pair were busy building their respective empires and the former Weinstein intern remarks that Chapman was often working in New York, but they saw each other regularly. Chapman appeared in some of his films including Factory Girl. The only shadow was a 2015 scandal, when Weinstein was accused of groping an Italian model. He was cleared of charges. Chapman was supportive, sharing a picture of flowers he sent her on Instagram the week the charges were dropped with the caption "#wonderfulhusband".

After the news that Chapman has left her husband, there is speculation about Marchesa's future. "No star is ever going to want to wear the brand again," The Hollywood Reporter quoted an unnamed New York fashion publicist as saying. Over here, one fashion editor said: "People will sympathise with Georgina but this will definitely prompt a second look at Marchesa."

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