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Marchesa's Georgina Chapman on designing for the red carpet

January 14, 2011 |  3:22 pm

It's almost a given that Marchesa will make a big showing at the Golden Globes Sunday. The label designed by Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig has become a Hollywood go-to for high drama, high romance gowns. Remember the heavily embroidered pearl gray satin column gown Sandra Bullock wore to last year's Oscars, and the fan-pleated fuchsia satin creation that Vera Farmiga stepped out in? How about Kate Hudson's white dress with origami folded bodice from the 2010 Golden Globes? All Marchesa.
Chapman and Craig, who met at Chelsea College of Art and Design in London, launched their business in 2004. Now, they design the high-end Marchesa collection, the more affordable Notte collection, as well as bridal wear and handbags. Based in New York, Craig conceives of the textiles and embroideries, while Chapman (who studied costume design in school) sketches and drapes.      
Chapman also happens to be the wife of producer Harvey Weinstein, and three months ago gave birth to their first child, India. In town to tend to last-minute red carpet needs, and support her husband, whose film "The King's Speech" is in the running for several awards at the Globes, Chapman sat down for a quick chat about red-carpet fashion. But first, she pulled out the baby photos. "Poor Harvey. She looks very much like I did as a baby," she said. "I think she might have his temperament though."

Georgina All the Rage: How has the award show dressing been going this year?
Chapman: For us it's been flowing quite nicely. There are so many different ways that we work. Sometimes someone will come to us to do a dress, and we'll do sketches and work with them, which I love. Other times I send out a dress and I never know until the last minute. I had a case where someone left in their car in a dress, turned around, came back home and changed her mind. At least it's not going to be raining. Last year, Kate Hudson was wearing one of our dresses with this great fishtail train. She picked the whole thing up in her hand so it wouldn't get wet. I was watching on TV saying, "Put it down, put it down, put it down!" She said afterward that she didn't want to ruin the dress. But I wouldn't have cared if she had!
What makes a great red-carpet dress?
Not every actress wants to be a fashion icon. They are artists in their own right. It's about them getting acknowledged for that. They should go for their personal level of comfort and style. When they feel good about what they're wearing and carry it off, that reads. It's about doing what's right for you.

Do you get your feelings hurt if an actress wants to change something about a dress?

No, because not everything suits everybody. Even for myself, when I'm wearing one of my own dresses from the runway show, I don't have a 17-year-old body so things have to be changed.

Do people still talk about your relationship with Harvey, and how it may have given you greater access to Hollywood than you would have had otherwise?
People don't really talk about that anymore, thank goodness. I'm really grateful that they see me in my own light. I love what I do and people seem to enjoy my product. That's all I care about -- that girls enjoy my dresses, the buyers are happy and the product sells.

Where do you find inspiration?
All different places. Museums, art books, vintage, going on holiday. What really enlightened my creative process was backpacking for a year when I was 18. I went to Vietnam, Nepal, India, and that's where a lot of my creativity and my library of colors come from.
How much more do you think Marchesa can grow? Do you want to design all categories?
I do. We already have Lenox by Marchesa plates, flatwear and glasses, which has been really great to design. Day wear is a possibility, and I would love to do shoes.
How often do you get dressed up for Marchesa-level events?
Quite often, New York is quite a social city. More than I'd like really! 
-- Booth Moore

Top photos: Sandra Bullock, left, and Vera Farmiga, center, at the 2010 Academy Awards. Kate Hudson, right, at 67th Annual Golden Globe Awards. All are wearing Marchesa gowns. Credits: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

Bottom photo: Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman in November.  Credit: Peter Kramer / Associated Press