On the day in late February when I arrive at Georgina Chapman’s town house in the West Village to interview her, it’s unseasonably hot, nearly 80 degrees. I am ushered to the parlor floor, where, even though it feels like August outside, a fire is roaring away. As I wait, it suddenly dawns on me that I am sitting in Harvey Weinstein’s living room. He purchased the six-story house in 2006, the year before he married Chapman, and she has since put her stamp all over it: black floors and white rugs, chinoiserie, lots of gilt and glass, hydrangeas in a vase, a Jo Malone candle burning. On a console table are silver-framed photographs from happier times, mostly of the couple’s children: India and Dashiell, seven and five. All evidence of the original occupant would appear to have been scrubbed away—except for a large piece of art hanging in the hallway. At the bottom, it is signed, “For Harvey Weinstein.” The drawing is dominated by a large empty circle, next to which it reads, “The moon was here.”
I had been introduced to Chapman, dressed in a floor-length dark print dress, a couple of weeks earlier at the West Twenty-sixth Street atelier of the fashion company, Marchesa, that she co-owns with Keren Craig. That day, she struck me as hyperalert: flitting around, wide-eyed and nervous, uncomfortable in her skin—or lack thereof, as it were. She mentioned, almost in passing, that she hadn’t been out in public in five months—not since the news broke in October of so many unbearably similar accusations by so many women of harassment, abuse, and rape perpetrated by her husband. When she appears today, dressed in jeans, a white T-shirt, ballerina flats, and an armful of gold bracelets, she is more relaxed, though there’s a gallows humor—a morbidity—firmly in place. When I mention the disturbingly warm weather, she laughs and says, “Think of all the poor plants that are going to spring out and then die.”
We head downstairs to the ground floor, where most of the living takes place: a big, casual, open space with lots of color, modern furniture, and surprising art. There’s a huge, elegant kitchen that looks out onto a backyard, and a TV room where Dash, on spring break, is sitting on a sectional, ensorcelled by some kind of electronic device. At 42, Chapman looks younger. Or is it that she seems younger? In photographs, she has often reminded me of Victoria Beckham—chiseled and somewhat brittle-looking. But, today, dressed so California-casual, her hair now long and blonde, with wide-set blue eyes and fine features, she looks more like a younger Michelle Pfeiffer. Though she is English to her core, using whilst and learnt in a thick, posh accent, she is more goofy than I had imagined. As we sit down to lunch—a simple spread of veal Milanese and eggplant parmigiana—she seems a bit flustered, unable to maintain a hostess facade for too long, or even to decide where I should sit.
Our meeting, in her soon-to-be ex–town house that her soon-to-be ex-husband recently sold, was meant to be the moment when Chapman would finally, publicly address for the first time what happened. The night before, she had called me fairly late, and I thought she was going to back out. She sounded worried, apologizing profusely, talking fast. She was not ready to address anything too difficult, did not feel prepared. I reassured her that we could talk about her life before Harvey or about Marchesa—which is exactly what we did at first.
Not long after the news broke, common wisdom had it that no actress would ever wear a Marchesa dress again, and no bride would ever walk down the aisle in a gown designed by Chapman. In January, she canceled the runway show for Marchesa’s fall 2018 collection, which fueled rumors that the brand was in trouble. But Chapman says she herself made the decision not to offer any clothes for awards season. “We didn’t feel it was appropriate given the situation,” she says. “All the women who have been hurt deserve dignity and respect, so I want to give it the time it deserves. It’s a time for mourning, really.” But she also has loyal supporters. “A lot of people reached out and said, ‘Let me wear something,’ ” and Scarlett Johansson picked a Marchesa gown to wear to May’s Met ball.
Fashion now is such a social business—so many parties, so much self-presentation. Turns out, Chapman has felt insecure and awkward at social functions for much of her life. She does not enjoy being the focus of attention, which is one of the reasons she has a tendency to redirect focus onto others. As the actor David Oyelowo, her friend of 25 years, tells me, “It’s something she’s had to cultivate: the ability to try to fade into the background. That’s why, when she’s at a party, she spends a lot of time and energy making other people feel comfortable, listened to, important.”
As our lunch is winding down, I ask, almost in passing, if Chapman really hadn’t been out in five months; she seems to shrink before my eyes as her mouth goes dry. “I was so humiliated and so broken . . . that . . . I, I, I . . . didn’t think it was respectful to go out,” she says. “I thought, Who am I to be parading around with all of this going on? It’s still so very, very raw. I was walking up the stairs the other day and I stopped; it was like all the air had been punched out of my lungs.”
I ask if she’s been seeing a therapist. “I have,” she says. “At first I couldn’t, because I was too shocked. And I somehow felt that I didn’t deserve it. And then I realized: This has happened. I have to own it. I have to move forward.” She takes a long, deep breath. “There was a part of me that was terribly naive—clearly, so naive. I have moments of rage, I have moments of confusion, I have moments of disbelief! And I have moments when I just cry for my children. What are their lives going to be?” She has been crying through most of this, and now she breaks down into sobs loud enough that her assistant appears with a box of tissues. “What are people going to say to them?” She is crying so hard she has to take a moment. “It’s like, they love their dad. They love him.” It is almost unbearable to witness, this broken person in front of me. “I just can’t bear it for them!”
Chapman grabs a tissue and wipes her tears away—“I wasn’t prepared to say any of that!”—and lets out a deep, guttural laugh.