The CultureMap Interview
Ten years ago, besties Keren Craig and Georgina Chapman launched Marchesa and became masters of the opulent statement-making gown. The British duo, who met in a life drawing class at London's Chelsea College of Arts when they were 17, recently brought their ethereal spring 2015 collection to Saks Fifth Avenue, where several of Houston's best dressed picked out gowns for the upcoming social season.
"Texans like to dress up and obviously this is a big great benefit for us."
Since founding their brand, named for an Italian heiress known for her unique style, they have added a bridal collection, two lower priced lines (Marchesa Notte and Voyage), handbags, fragrance and china collections. Next up: a jewelry line, available at Macy's.
While some design duos grow apart as they achieve success Chapman and Craig seem closer than ever, often finishing each other's sentences during a CultureMap interview. Before heading back to New York after a quick Houston trip to show their collection at the Catwalk for a Cure gala, Chapman and Craig talked about the reasons for success and what's next.
CultureMap: When you first started out, did you imagine a decade later you would be here?
Georgina Chapman: We hoped. We dreamed.
Keren Craig: We feel very lucky. We have had an amazing 10 years and we're just looking forward to the next 10.
CM: Why do you think you have been successful?
KC: I think it’s a combination of being passionate, hard work and a lot of luck.
CM: How have you changed and how has your customer changed?
KC: That’s so hard (to answer). I don’t know. I don’t feel like I’ve changed. I feel exactly how I did in my twenties.
GC: You never realize you change, I supposed. It’s like anything you do.You grow.
KC: We both have kids now, so I suppose that’s been a big change. We’re mothers. We’re both married.
GC: We like to think that our customer grows with us so we get new customers. The next generation comes up. When I first started Marchesa, I was married and then I met my husband (producer Harvey Weinstein) and had three girls. Now they’re starting to wear Marchesa. Ten years later they’re teenagers. You do get that next generation.
"I don’t mind being called gorgeous. I tell Isaac he’s gorgeous as well."
CM: Some find working as a duo easy, some find it hard. How have you found that and how has it evolved?
GC: We’re still doing it for 10 years. I guess if you find it hard you wouldn’t do it. There are a lot of duos, like Dolce & Gabbana, they’re still very much together. The Rag & Bone boys. The Proenza boys. I think it’s quite a common thing actually.
KC: We're based in New York and we see each other every day. We’ve always gotten off so well together. We have the same aesthetic. We have different areas of the business, so we don’t step on each others toes.
CM: What areas?
KC: I’m in textiles and I do embroidery. Georgina comes up with the concept and designs the dress, so we have a set place that we come together and work well together.
GC: It’s an organic process.
CM: Georgina, you are a judge on Project Runway All Stars. Has that helped the brand?
GC: Definitely it gives us exposure. Given all the lines that we have now it’s a great thing to have. And I enjoy it. I have a really great time. (Judge) Isaac (Mizrahi) is a fantastic person and I really enjoy spending time with him. And (host) Alyssa (Milano) is great fun and she’s wonderful. And it’s nice to support young talent and new designers. They work really hard.
CM: I noticed this year they’re no longer calling you the "gorgeous" Georgina Chapman.
GC: A year later. I don’t know what Alyssa calls me this time.
"We are really excited. Who isn’t excited about diamonds?"
CM: I’ve always found that a little sexist honestly.
GC: (laughs) Did you? I don’t mind being called gorgeous. I tell Isaac he’s gorgeous as well.
CM: What is something the Marchesa customer might not know about you?
KC: People always think we’re based in LA. We’re not. We’re based in New York.
GC: We don’t even have a house in LA. That's hard because I don't know what people know.
CM: How to you describe your style and is that reflected in the line?
KC: Oh yeah absolutely. We make what we love.
GC: It would be real hard to make something different.
CM: What do you see for 2015, personally and for the brand?
GC: We are launching our jewelry line, with a big launch in February, but we're starting this month at Macy’s. We are really excited. Who isn’t excited about diamonds?
CM: A lot of people think the Texas customer is different. What do you notice?
GC: First of all they are so nice. Everyone is so lovely and so friendly and so glamorous.
KC: Texans like to dress up and obviously this is a big great benefit for us.
GC: It is the perfect place for us.
KC: Women dress up a little more.