The editor-in-chief of Vogue may be known as “Nuclear Wintour” by those who fear her steely, aloof demeanor, but she’s also a warm-hearted savior.
Anna Wintour’s campaign to revive the ailing career of fashion designer Georgina Chapman — which was tarnished amidst the revelations of her now estranged husband Harvey Weinstein’s jaw-dropping sexual misconduct last fall — kicked into high gear this week.
First, A-list actress Scarlett Johansson showed up at the Met Gala on Monday wearing a gown from Marchesa, the line Chapman founded with co-designer Keren Craig. Insiders tell Page Six that it was Wintour who orchestrated the high-profile move and got Marchesa back on the red carpet for the first time since the Weinstein scandal broke.
On Wednesday, Wintour appeared on “The Late Show” and told host Stephen Colbert: “Georgina’s a brilliant designer, and I don’t think she should be blamed for her husband’s behavior.”
According to a fashion-industry insider, “Anna wants Georgina back in the game. They’ve been friends since 2004. She was always front row at Marchesa shows.
On Thursday, Vogue.com published Wintour’s editor’s letter from the June issue of the magazine, along with an interview with Chapman. Here, Wintour took her strongest defense yet, writing, “I am firmly convinced that Georgina had no idea about her husband’s behavior; blaming her for any of it, as too many have in our gladiatorial digital age, is wrong. I believe that one should not hold a person responsible for the actions of his or her partner. What Georgina should be receiving is our compassion and understanding.”
One style source told Page Six, however, that there might be a bit of self-preservation involved as well. “Anna was friends with Harvey, too,” the source said. “She doesn’t want to seem like she — or Georgina — had any idea of his treatment of women.”
Before the Weinstein news broke, Marchesa was a popular choice for actresses, including Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lopez and Blake Lively, attending film premieres and awards shows — often while promoting Weinstein-produced projects.
But in October 2017, a fashion executive told The Post that “actresses won’t touch [Marchesa] now.” Indeed, the brand was a no-show on the 2018 Grammys, Oscars and Golden Globes red carpets. Now, Wintour has changed the game.
Johansson has long worked with stylist Molly Dickson, who dresses the star for such big events as the “Avengers: Infinity War” Los Angeles premiere in April. However, Dickson’s agency, the Wall Group, confirms that the stylist was not involved with securing the actress’s ruby and ombre chiffon Marchesa gown for the Met Gala.
“It was all Anna,” the style source said.
Wintour has the power — the Met Gala is her party, after all. Since she took over as the event’s chair in 1995, she’s turned it from a mere annual fund-raiser for the MetropolitanMuseum of Art’s costume institute into Manhattan’s most star-studded happening. In 2014, the Met even renamed the institute the Anna Wintour Costume Center.
“Anna controls it all,” seconded the fashion-industry insider. “Some celebrities [attending the Met Gala] have existing relationships with designers, but otherwise Anna matches up the celeb with a designer — [the designer] works with the celebrity directly, and someone at Vogue, on a specific look.”
The style source explained that Wintour’s defense of Chapman, “was all engineered months ago. The June Vogue piece was in the planning since February, when Anna talked Georgina into doing it. Anna convinced her it would be good for [Marchesa] — and good for her. Getting an A-list celeb in a Marchesa [dress] for the Met Gala was always part of the plan.”
Wintour told Colbert this past week that, “It was a great gesture of support on Scarlett’s part to wear such a beautiful dress like that on such a public occasion.”
But insiders said Wintour shrewdly hand-picked Johansson to resuscitate Marchesa because she is the perfect feminist icon.
The two-time Vogue cover girl co-hosted a Barack Obama presidential fund-raiser with Wintour in 2006, and both women were very outspoken in their support of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Johansson’s also been vocal in her support of the #MeToo and Time’s Up initiatives, and she spoke at the March 2018 Women’s March in Los Angeles.
Appropriately, Johansson hammered home her pro-women stance when she gave us a statement about her Met Gala gown: “I wore Marchesa because their clothes make women feel confident and beautiful and it is my pleasure to support a brand created by two incredibly talented and important female designers.”
In other words, let’s remove the stigma of shame from the wife and keep it on the man who committed the crimes.
Likewise, the Vogue profile of Chapman, penned by longtime contributor Jonathan Van Meter, is savvy. The story quotes several high-profile friends of Chapman’s (many of whom call her by the down-to-earth name of “George”), including Huma Abedin — the beleagured estranged of serial cheater and former Congressman Anthony Weiner. She strikes just the right note of self-awareness, considering both she and Chapman have been seen by some as enablers of their husbands rather than victims.
“This particular club, ironically, it’s not such a small one: women who have had to endure [their husbands’ scandals] in such a public way, women like Georgina and me,” Abedin said. “People don’t feel sorry for us; you don’t get that empathy. People think you’re beautiful, you’re thin, you’re rich, you’re photographed on the red carpet, and you get stuck in this category.”
And that’s exactly the attitude Wintour is aiming to correct, insiders say.
This isn’t the first time the Vogue editrix has stepped in to save a designer she felt was unjustly tarred and feathered.
After John Galliano, long a favorite of the magazine’s, was shunned by the fashion industry for his drunken anti-Semitic ravings at a Paris bistro in 2011 — and he was fired from Dior — Wintour respectfully waited a few years before publicly supporting him, even after his profuse apologies. (Privately, she was spotted having dinner with him as early as 2012.) In 2014, when many were still not ready to forgive him, Wintour sent a message by having Galliano present her with the Outstanding Achievement statuette at the 2014 British Fashion Awards, and by being the first to wear one of his designs for Maison Margiela on the red carpet.
So will it work for Chapman and Marchesa?
Some insiders are still holding a grudge — and have expanded it to include Johansson. “To me, Marchesa is over,” said fashion historian Bronwyn Cosgrave.
“Too soon,” is the opinion of a powerful fashion publicist. “Scarlett is a well known #MeToo advocate. She may be well-intentioned [with her] support, but it can imply that this movement has an expiration date. Why should Marchesa get a fast track?”
Others think Hollywood will move on, however.
“I do think actresses will start wearing the brand again now,” said Marilyn Heston of MHA Media, a fashion public relations company that dresses celebrities.
“[One of the] highest-paid actress[es] in the world wore a Marchesa gown to the biggest fashion night of the year, making it one hell of a gift to the brand at a time when it desperately needed some good press,” said fashion bloggers Tom (Fitzgerland) and Lorenzo (Marquez). “Scarlett’s given her colleagues permission to wear the brand again.”
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