How the fashion world has been shaken by Weinstein allegations


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In the days since The New York Times broke the story of allegations of decades of harassment and assault by Harvey Weinstein, torrents of heart-wrenching stories have poured forth from at least 30 women who say they were victimised by Weinstein. So have unstinting condemnations from many who worked with Weinstein or benefited from their relationship with him, both in film and in Democratic political circles.

“Behaviour like this is appalling and unacceptable,” said Anna Wintour, the artistic director of Conde Nast, breaking her silence on the issue. “I feel horrible about what these women have experienced and admire their bravery in coming forward. My heart goes out to them, as well as to Georgina and the children. We all have a role to play in creating safe environments where everyone can be free to work without fear.”

Wintour has put stars of Mr. Weinstein’s films on more than a dozen of her Vogue covers over the years; prominently featured Marchesa, the label co-founded by his wife, Georgina Chapman, in her magazine; and hosted political fundraisers with him. Her words make all the more stark the realisation that from fashion, the third pillar of Mr. Weinstein’s power base, an industry in which he made major investments going back more than 15 years, and with which he hoped to burnish his empire, the overwhelming response has been a ringing silence.

“I’ve been struck by it,” Steven Kolb, the chief executive of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, said Tuesday. After all, many fashion stakeholders spoke out vociferously earlier this year against President Donald Trump’s policies on women’s rights.

But aside from Donna Karan, who gave statements that first defended and then criticised Weinstein, few designers have ventured as much. Nor have any of the major retailers who sell Marchesa spoken up, not even to offer support to Chapman, who has announced she is separating from her husband. (Chapman was not available for comment.)

In a statement Tuesday, Weinstein’s spokeswoman, Sallie Hofmeister, said: “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances.”

For his part, Weinstein acknowledged, in a larger statement to The New York Post, that his actions could have a negative impact on Chapman’s company. Marchesa’s public profile depended largely on its connection to Hollywood – the label does not advertise – and, fair or not, Chapman and her line are now swept up in this unfolding story.

The refrain from major department stores in response to requests for comment? “We just don’t want to be part of this story.”

But that is unavoidable. Fashion is already deeply involved.

Not just because Tuesday a petition was begun by Care2 asking US retailer Nordstrom to drop the Donna Karan and DKNY lines in response to Karan’s comments (though she herself is no longer involved with either label).

And not just because fashion has its own history with sexual harassment and poor treatment of young women, including increasingly documented abuses of models and the many claims against photographer Terry Richardson (who, after some time away, is still working in the industry).

Weinstein, more than perhaps any film executive of the modern era, seemed to understand the role fashion could play as he built an upmarket brand in which box office performance was important, but so were glitter and good reviews.

He introduced Project Runway. Along with shoe designer Tamara Mellon, he was instrumental in the revival of Halston, for which he corralled Sarah Jessica Parker, celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe (who often dressed her clients in Marchesa) and private equity firm Hilco as partners. He licensed the option to revive the Charles James brand the same year the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art featured a Charles James exhibition.

Harvey Weinstein, Jessica Simpson, Nina Garcia, Michael Kors and Heidi Klum sit in the front row of Project Runway Season 8 Finale during the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Spring Summer 2011.

Harvey Weinstein, Jessica Simpson, Nina Garcia, Michael Kors and Heidi Klum sit in the front row of Project Runway Season 8 Finale during the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Spring Summer 2011. Photo: Graylock/AP

When actresses from his films campaigned for Oscars, guess whose dresses they often wore?

“We all knew celebrities were asked to wear Marchesa if they were in a Weinstein movie,” said the co-owner of a fashion communications company who asked not to be identified. “They were supposed to wear it at least once. We all knew that cycle.”

Going all the way back to his days at Miramax, the first of two studios Weinstein co-founded, he put out fashion-themed films.

In 1994, Weinstein released Robert Altman’s Pret-a-Porter. In 2009, he acquired the North American distribution rights for A Single Man, designer Tom Ford’s debut film. In 2011, he acquired Madonna’s W.E., a period drama about Wallis Simpson in which the gowns were almost the only thing that got good notices.

Ford would never have held up Weinstein as the poster boy for how to treat women.

Still, Ford said Thursday, it was a far cry from what was revealed over the last week and a half, through two exposes in The New York Times outlining allegations of a pattern of sexual harassment and assault and a third from The New Yorker detailing accusations of rape.

“What Harvey has done is shocking, indefensible and disturbing on many levels,” Ford said. “I knew that Harvey certainly liked beautiful young women.” But, he added: “I had no idea of his predatory and abusive behaviour or that he had paid settlements to anyone.” Ford noted that since he himself is a gay man, Weinstein’s “sex life would certainly not have been something that he would have felt the need to share with me.”

Parker, who collaborated with Weinstein at Halston, said: “Over the last two decades, through various projects, I’ve always maintained a relationship with him that I was, for the most part, comfortable with. Now I feel he is a stranger, that I didn’t know him at all. And desperately sad to hear how so many women have suffered.”

And Mellon, referring to sexual predation, concurred: “I never saw anything like that. That behaviour usually happens when no else is watching and in private. If I had seen it, I would have stopped it. I only ever witnessed raging and threats, but that was toward me, and I pushed back when he did that.”

Weinstein’s increased presence on the fashion circuit seemed to coincide with his shrinking presence in the film world. Optics had always been essential to his prestige brand, so it made some sense that he leaned on an industry selling illusions to help maintain his myth. The razzle-dazzle of Weinstein and his wife on red carpets all over the world was a good distraction when fewer awards were coming his way.

Project Runway helped, too. It made stars out of designer Michael Kors, model Heidi Klum and editor Nina Garcia. Lauren Zalaznick, then the head of the Bravo network, where the show debuted, said: “On the surface, of course, it was a logical extension into TV.

“But what it really did was help build a firmer network within the fashion and publishing industries. It lent even more proximity to the power of relationships with designers, editors and models, and the sceptre of magazine covers, more and different awards, political and socially minded fundraisers, and the attendant money, glamour and even more power that comes along with that territory.”

A spinoff, Project Runway All Stars, which debuted in 2012, features Chapman as a judge; the next season has already been filmed.

Weinstein was a key fundraiser for amfAR, whose gala during the Cannes Film Festival is the most fashion-centric event on the movie festival circuit. Klum was honoured by the organisation in 2013.

LVMH, the French luxury conglomerate, has a 1 per cent stake in The Weinstein Co. In 2007, Weinstein wrote the profile of Bernard Arnault for the Time 100 most influential people list. In 2011, he told The Wall Street Journal ,”When I wasn’t doing so well, Anna would give a party and put me next to Bernard Arnault.”

A person familiar with LVMH said the two men barely knew each other.

Weinstein was also a regular at the Met Gala, which has been co-chaired by Wintour since 1999, and at the Council of Fashion Designers of America awards. (In 2016, there were plans for The Weinstein Co. to produce a television special on the CFDA awards, but it fell through, Kolb said, when they realised that the event was not paced for television.) Weinstein appeared in front rows, including those of Marchesa, Dior, Louis Vuitton and Burberry.

It was at a fashion show that actress Léa Seydoux met Weinstein, she wrote in The Guardian. He then requested a private meeting with her, she said, which quickly turned inappropriate. (She also wrote about watching him pursue another woman at the Met Gala.) The model turned actress Cara Delevingne recently accused Weinstein of pursuing her and repeating to her details of her personal life as reported in the tabloids.

Trish Goff, a model who was a regular in the pages of Vogue and appeared in campaigns for Chanel and Dior, said she met Weinstein at a cocktail party at Wintour’s house in 2003 when she was 25. “He came in, and someone said, ‘Oh, there’s Harvey Weinstein,’ so I turned to look at him, and he was looking at me,” she said. Shortly thereafter, her agent got a call from his office inviting her to lunch.

She recalled: “This was at a time in my career when I was starting to think about what’s next. I was nervous about it because he had a reputation, but I was equally nervous about not going because I was a single mother, and what if he made it so I didn’t work anymore? So I said, ‘OK, tell him I’ll have lunch.'”

They ended up at the Tribeca Grill. “When I arrived, I discovered we were seated in a private room,” she said. “I asked him why he had wanted to have lunch, and he said, ‘You were looking at me?’ as if to imply I was interested. I said, ‘Yes, I was looking at you because you are Harvey Weinstein, and I had never seen you before.”

American model Trish Goff in Vogue UK.

American model Trish Goff in Vogue UK.

“Then he started asking me if I had a boyfriend and if we had an open relationship. I said I wasn’t interested in an open relationship, but he was relentless, and I kept trying to shut that down and move on. Then he started putting his hands on my legs, and I said, ‘Can you stop doing that?’ When we finally stood up to go, he really started groping me, grabbing my breasts, grabbing my face and trying to kiss me. I kept saying, ‘Please stop, please stop,’ but he didn’t until I managed to get back into the public space.

“The horrible thing is, as a model, it wasn’t that unusual to be in a weird situation where a photographer or someone feels they have a right to your body.”

Hofmeister, Weinstein’s spokeswoman, said he could not be reached for comment on Goff’s allegations and directed a reporter to a previous statement denying allegations of non-consensual sex.

Now Marchesa has become yet another symbol of Weinstein’s abuse of power, a brand he helped mastermind and support. There is now a #boycottmarchesa hashtag on Twitter. Helzberg Diamonds, which held the license for Marchesa’s bridal jewellery, announced it had delayed the planned line.

“The relationship helped the business tremendously,” said Stellene Volandes, the editor of Town & Country. “Marchesa had such great success on the red carpet and became known for that.” (Chapman appeared on the cover of the magazine in 2009.)

The label, which was founded in 2004 by Chapman and Keren Craig, first received real attention that same year, when Renee Zellweger, the star of the Miramax film Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, appeared on the red carpet in a Marchesa dress. She was followed shortly thereafter by Cate Blanchett, who wore Marchesa to the Rome premiere of The Aviator, also produced by Miramax.

In recent years, Marchesa’s red-carpet magic has dimmed, and its celebrity placements have lost a bit of their star power, yet the label’s princess-y dresses still found eager takers. In 2017, Octavia Spencer, who has appeared in movies produced by Weinstein, wore a custom Marchesa gown to the Academy Awards, when she was nominated for her role in Hidden Figures.

When stars did wear the label, there was often a connection to Weinstein. Jennifer Jason Leigh wore Marchesa to the Academy Awards in 2016, when she was a nominee for her role in The Hateful Eight, directed by Quentin Tarantino (and executive-produced by the Weinstein brothers).

But Hollywood stylists who work with such stars and fashion houses to find dresses for premieres, award shows and red-carpet events appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach on the label. Of a half-dozen top stylists who have used Marchesa, not one would comment on how the Weinstein revelations would affect their use of Marchesa.

“There’s a mob mentality that has developed,” said Lauren Santo Domingo, a founder of Moda Operandi, an online fashion retailer, who said she was standing behind Marchesa. On Wednesday, the brand postponed a planned preview of its spring 2018 collection to an unspecified “later date.” The company is hunkering down and could not be reached for comment.

“I think the issue is no one knows what to say to Georgina, or the words to use,” Kolb said. “But as a creative power and as a CFDA member, she is someone who deserves the industry’s support and backing.”

Indeed, said Julie Gilhart, a fashion consultant and the former fashion director of Barneys New York: “We are living in a time right now when we should try to find the words.”

The New York Times 

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