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Marchesa is Caught in the Crisis Crossfire

The Weinstein Company isn’t the only piece of collateral damage affected by the downfall of infamous movie producer Harvey Weinstein. The high-fashion brand, Marchesa, co-founded by his soon-to-be ex-wife Georgina Chapman is spiraling down along with him. Formally worn by high-profile clients such as Blake Lively, Emma Watson, Sandra Bullock and former first lady Michelle Obama, Chapman’s designs have disappeared from the red carpet after being shunned by her famous clientele.

Chapman herself has largely stayed out of the public eye, letting her business partner, Keren Craig, take over the everyday operating tasks of Marchesa.

So, what does a brand do when it’s caught in the crossfire of a serious scandal that’s not its own?

Marchesa decided—quite astutely—to play a classic PR card: duck and cover. Simply put, stayed quiet during the most acute phase of negative attention and only emerged when it had a reputation-recovery plan in place.

For Marchesa, the wait lasted six months. No celebrity had been spotted wearing a Marchesa design since the scandal erupted last October until Scarlett Johansson appeared at the Met in a maroon Marchesa gown.

Finally, the brand was ready to emerge on its own terms. Out of the eye of the storm, her company began its recovery campaign. Giving her first interview to Vogue in May, Chapman went into detail about how the scandal impacted her family personally and how uncomfortable she felt simply going into public the months after the New York Times article was published. She made a point of noting she did not consider herself a victim and was trying to “just live in the moment.”

Chapman also enlisted powerful third-party vindicators. A persuasive letter from Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour argued that the designer wasn’t aware of the allegations prior, and that “blaming her for any of it, as too many have in our gladiatorial digital age, is wrong.”

While the damage Weinstein has done to his wife’s company will surely taint the brand, the question of whether or not the damage will have long-term effects is still undecided. With the upcoming trial of Weinstein, which is sure to be daily news, Marchesa is likely to attract further negative attention.

But the brand has, so far, executed a flawless reputational recovery campaign. Will the support of industry heavyweights such as Wintour and Johansson—combined with a powerful personal narrative described in Vogue—keep the brand out of the fray it was unjustly affiliated with and back in the good graces of Hollywood elite?

In a moment of heightened attention to women’s voices—ironically catapulted to center-stage by her husband—Chapman’s strategic thinking and perseverance should be enough. I, for one, will be keeping close tabs on how it plays out.

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