After months of absence, Marchesa returned to the red carpet last month, with Scarlett Johansson wearing a gown by Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig’s label to the Met Gala. A warm Vogue profile of Chapman—the estranged wife of Harvey Weinstein—and supportive editorial by Anna Wintour followed soon after.
Chapman is planning the comeback and continued life of Marchesa—and key to that is ensuring that the scandal and legal battles surrounding Weinstein, and his history of alleged sexual assaults, do not permanently infect Marchesa. Or even destroy it.
Now, a Daily Beast investigation has found a series of connections between Marchesa and a company listed on court documents as “doing business as” Marchesa—one that may be directly linked to Weinstein himself—and sources tell The Daily Beast that Weinstein allegedly provided money to Marchesa as it launched itself into the fashion stratosphere.
Chapman declined to address with The Daily Beast the relationship between Marchesa and a company called SeaMarch Creations Inc.—Marchesa and SeaMarch are anagrams of each other—and whether Weinstein himself was involved in SeaMarch Creations Inc. at one time.
In a business report indexed in a public records database, Weinstein is listed as a “president” and “officer” of SeaMarch Creations Inc. Political donations filed in 2012 by both Weinstein and Chapman are connected to an address, an office on Seventh Avenue in New York, which is also listed as a one-time address of SeaMarch and also of Weinstein’s former accountant.
In a listing at the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, the two companies are listed as one, Marchesa/SeaMarch Creations Inc., while both Marchesa and SeaMarch also appear together as defendants in a 2015 court filing, both sharing the same address at Marchesa HQ on West 26th Street in New York City.
In the court filing, SeaMarch Creations Inc. is described as “d/b/a”—doing business as—Marchesa. The companies also appear co-joined in a LinkedIn profile (Marchesa also has its own).
Through a spokesperson, Chapman declined to clarify what SeaMarch Creations Inc. was or is, and what it “doing business as” Marchesa precisely means.
“Ms. Chapman, Ms. Craig, nor anyone else at Marchesa has any involvement at all in SeaMarch. SeaMarch has no involvement at all in Marchesa Holdings, LLC,” a Marchesa spokesperson told The Daily Beast in a statement, declining to answer a number of other questions about the two companies.
Both Chapman and Weinstein also declined to clarify any links between the two companies, or to answer questions about any past or present involvement by Weinstein—financial or otherwise—with his wife's business.
“Mr. Weinstein has no involvement at all in Marchesa Holdings, LLC,” a spokesman said in a one-sentence statement, in response to a series of detailed questions sent by The Daily Beast.
Both Marchesa and Weinstein also declined to discuss the presence—on the 2013 DVD release of The Weinstein Company and Anchor Bay Entertainment’s Silver Linings Playbook—of an extended promotional advertisement for Chapman’s “Pearl” fashion line for J.C. Penney.
“You’ll always get a lot of Marchesa in a ‘Pearl’ dress,” promises Chapman in the advertisement.
The Daily Beast sought clarification on how the long-form promo was paid for, and who had arranged, filmed, and produced the advertisement—and received no response from Marchesa or Weinstein to a series of questions about how the advertisement came to be.
As Fortune reported, two former TWC directors, Lance Maerov and Tarak Ben Ammar, said that in late 2014, “Weinstein had tapped (The Weinstein Company’s) credit facility to advance himself funds against future receipts from movies he owned personally, and paid Marchesa $75,000 for dresses that he’d given to a business acquaintance in Qatar.”
Ben Ammar told Fortune, “We were shocked he was making gifts with company money.”
Maerov declined to comment to The Daily Beast; Ben Ammar did not return requests for comment.
If Chapman is keen to rehabilitate Marchesa’s reputation with Hollywood women and her other wealthy female customers, she appears less ready to explain why her business was possibly entwined with one that may have belonged to her shamed husband.
Harvey Weinstein and Georgina Chapman met in 2004 and married in 2007. They have two children, India Pearl, 7, and Dashiell Max Robert, 5. (Weinstein also has three children—Remy, Emma, and Ruth—from his previous marriage to Eve Chilton.)
Chapman and Weinstein are reportedly in the process of getting divorced, following the various scandals and lawsuits facing the disgraced producer. Chapman is reportedly set to receive around $20 million in the divorce settlement and is, according to Page Six, on the verge of buying a property in Westchester County, outside New York City.
A former Marchesa staffer told The Daily Beast that Weinstein pumped money into Marchesa, which was founded by Chapman and business partner Keren Craig in 2004, the same year the couple started dating. “Of course Harvey gave her [Georgina] the money,” the staffer speculated. “There was nobody else. I’m surprised that nobody is making a big deal about it.”
A 2007 article by The New York Times’ Ruth La Ferla noted that Weinstein “has contributed timely cash infusions [to Marchesa], in amounts the company would not disclose.”
Another source, who has known Chapman socially for years dating back to before she met Weinstein, told The Daily Beast: “They met at a party. She was his lover. The money for Marchesa came from him. They were dating for two years and then he got divorced. When they went public, that is when she set up Marchesa. It gave her legitimacy. She always wanted to be a fashion designer, so when she started dating him it was a win-win.”
In February, Craig denied in Grazia that Weinstein had ever made a financial investment in the company. He did not have a remaining financial investment, she added—no shares or stake. “None, nothing.”
“Harvey was helpful in the beginning,” Craig said. “He helped us with meeting people, arranging contacts, [but] in terms of the business, he has not been involved.”
Through a spokesperson Chapman declined to comment to The Daily Beast about whether Weinstein had financially helped with the setting up of Marchesa itself.
Chapman and Craig, who met at art college, co-founded Marchesa in 2004, encouraged first by the fashion icon Isabella Blow.
“We were at a party,” Chapman told The Daily Beast’s Tim Teeman in 2013 in a profile for the London Times. “I had bought a sari from Southall (in southwest London) and created a backless corset. She (Craig) loved the dress, asked to wear it and said, ‘You should be doing couture.’ Without her encouragement, I’m not sure we would have had the courage to do it.”
Giuseppe Cipriani and Steven Witkoff, partners in the Witkoff Group real estate company, were Marchesa’s original investors. (One of the criminal charges Weinstein is facing features Lucia Evans, a woman he allegedly met at the nightspot Cipriani Upstairs, before allegedly assaulting her at his office in 2004.)
The Marchesa label is named after another inspiration, the Marchesa Luisa Casati, an eccentric 20th-century Italian heiress, for “her fearless approach to fashion, being a living work of art,” Chapman said in 2013. “Like Isabella [Blow], she was a rare bird. I love women who embrace fashion, their bodies, unafraid.”
A key focus for Chapman is to get Marchesa’s gowns back on the red carpet, with her and Craig at the helm, detached from allegations that Weinstein pressured actresses in his films to wear Chapman’s gowns, helping Marchesa become as well-known as it did.
Felicity Huffman confirmed to Too Fab that Weinstein had, as the Hollywood Reporter first reported, pressured her to wear Marchesa on the red carpet to promote Transamerica (2005) or he wouldn’t put money behind promoting the film.
Sienna Miller reportedly faced similar pressure to wear Marchesa at the Golden Globes the year she made the Weinstein-backed Factory Girl.
Weinstein himself admitted to “maybe” helping Renee Zellweger pick a Marchesa dress for the premiere of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.
“He was the mastermind behind Marchesa—orchestrating deals and using his influence in terms of the celebrity connections for her [Chapman] on behalf of the brand," one publicist told The Hollywood Reporter.
“What they did was make dresses and then Harvey made the actresses from his movies wear them on the red carpet,” Chapman’s longtime social acquaintance told The Daily Beast. “He forced actresses to wear them and that’s how she got famous. Nobody knew who Marchesa was until Harvey put it on the red carpet at the Golden Globes, Cannes, and Oscars.”
Chapman declined to respond to questions put by The Daily Beast that Weinstein pressured actresses to wear the label; so did Weinstein.
Asked by Teeman in 2013 what had first attracted her to Weinstein, Chapman replied, “He is probably the most charismatic person you’ll ever meet. He’s an extraordinary man and an extraordinary talent. He is my husband and I love him. I love being married. Everyone said, ‘You won’t feel any different,’ but I think you do. I’m romantic. Look at my clothes! I love the idea of the fairytale.”
Asked at the time if Weinstein understood couture or had anything to do with Marchesa itself, Chapman replied, “He goes to Dior shows. He gets costume because he has beautiful costumes in his films. He’s incredibly interested in everything, but does he have anything to do with this brand? Absolutely not… Have you seen the way he dresses? I would not let him near this brand, no. When it comes to fashion, it’s a separate world: think Church and State.”
In the wake of allegations that Weinstein sexually preyed upon scores of women over the course of years, that separation has never been more urgent for Chapman to emphasize—which perhaps explains her reluctance to discuss or elucidate the links (or not) between Marchesa and SeaMarch, and the true scale of Weinstein’s influence (or not) on Marchesa’s business.
This is a critical moment for Chapman, with her return to the public eye being backed by Vogue editor-in-chief Wintour, the most powerful person in fashion.
After months of her gowns not appearing in their most ubiquitous habitat—awards show red carpets—Johansson’s wearing of a Marchesa gown at the Met Gala was a move reportedly orchestrated by Wintour.
This return-to-the-public eye milestone was followed promptly by the benediction of Wintour in Vogue itself. Chapman received a warm profile in American edition of the magazine, which pointedly did not interrogate her about her husband’s relationship to her business but made clear her upset over his alleged behavior.
“All the women have 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,” Chapman told Vogue.
Marchesa seems keener to rehabilitate its red-carpet image than explain any apparent connections to SeaMarch and Weinstein.
In addition to being linked in the 2015 court filing, SeaMarch and Marchesa appear to have occupied the same New York City address, at different times listed as a suite within the building Marchesa occupies on West 26th Street; and elsewhere at a suite within a building on West 14th Street.
The former address is the headquarters of Marchesa today; the latter is an office building in the Meatpacking District.
At the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, “Marchesa/SeaMarch Creations Inc.” has been listed as a business since 2006, with its address listed at Marchesa’s HQ on West 26th Street. It pays an annual fee to be a member, the sum of which the chamber would not specify.
In a court filing of 2015 involving Guide Fabrics Inc., the defendants are listed as both Marchesa and also Seamarch Creations Inc. “d/b/a (doing business as) Marchesa.” Both companies, Marchesa and SeaMarch Creations Inc., are listed in the document as operating from the same address (Marchesa HQ on West 26th Street).
Michael A. Chasalow, director of the Small Business Clinic and clinical professor at USC Gould School of Law, said the proper name for a DBA is a “fictitious business name statement” (or in New York, a “Certificate of Assumed Name”) but was contracted to DBA (“doing business as”) for ease.
In and of itself, a DBA is not unusual. “The most typical use of this is when one business wants to operate under more than one name,” Chasalow said, emphasizing he did not know, and was not commenting on, the precise details of the Weinstein/Marchesa case. “The most common way you see it is with an individual who doesn’t want to operate under their own name but hasn’t formed a corporation. In other circumstances you have a corporation that wants to operate more than one business, and they use different business names under the same corporate umbrella.”
“It might be a way of distancing certain entities, but also might just be way of operating different divisions of the same company—for marketing purposes maybe,” Chasalow said. “It’s like registering a nickname, or an alternative name.”
Perhaps the company started out as SeaMarch, then decided to try out Marchesa, and then filed a “dba” to keep its options open, Chasalow said.
“Perhaps they never renewed SeaMarch as a name, and never revoked it,” posited Chasalow. “It does seem a little odd to me, but there might be simple and plausible reasons for it.”
“Why would SeaMarch ever do business as Marchesa if there was a separate company called Marchesa?” asked Chasalow. “It’s not so much about why they have a DBA. It’s more puzzling that they have a separate entity and a DBA for Marchesa. Perhaps, if he was involved, it meant Weinstein could exist in the background. The question is how was it structured—whether he was involved in management or did he just have an ownership interest? It does make him a little less visible. Or it could be: He wasn’t involved in running Marchesa but put a lot of money into it.”
“They do seem to be two separate entities,” Chasalow wrote to The Daily Beast in a later email. “It looks like Marchesa Holdings was not registered in New York until December 6, 2007. It might be that they were using SeaMarch Creations operating under the DBA ‘Marchesa’ before that time.”
A spokesperson for Marchesa would not answer a detailed set of questions about what SeaMarch was or is, whether Weinstein was involved in it, and its relationship—past and present—with Marchesa. Weinstein did not respond to a set of detailed questions posed by The Daily Beast about his positions at, and relationships with, SeaMarch and Marchesa.
Marchesa, and a company called “Seamarch, aka Marchesa” appear on The Weinstein Company’s list of creditors.
“Marchesa is not owed money by The Weinstein Company,” a spokesperson for Marchesa told The Daily Beast, but would or could not explain why Marchesa, and “Seamarch, aka Marchesa” appeared on The Weinstein Company’s list of creditors, nor explain the presence of Marchesa and SeaMarch Creations Inc. “doing business as” Marchesa on the court filing, with both companies based at the same address.
SeaMarch Creations Inc. is also linked to an address that appears to have a direct connection to Weinstein.
According to New York state filings, SeaMarch Creations Inc. was registered in New York state in August 2005; an address on the filings is 888 Seventh Ave., 35th floor.
In two separate records, Weinstein and SeaMarch Creations Inc. are both linked to an office at 888 Seventh Ave. on the 35th floor, where Richard Koenigsberg, a former board member of The Weinstein Company and Harvey and brother Bob Weinstein’s former accountant, is also listed as having an office (until a move a few years ago to an address on Broadway). Koenigsberg did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Weinstein and Chapman both made campaign contributions to the Obama Victory Fund 2012. Chapman listed her occupation as “Fashion Designer, Marchesa,” and in one of her contributions that year, the mailing address on the filing was care of 888 Seventh Ave., 35th floor, the same address listed on a New York state business filing as SeaMarch Creations Inc.
In an Obama Victory Fund campaign contribution document from the same year, Weinstein listed himself as “Executive, The Weinstein Company” and his mailing address at 888 Seventh Ave., 35th floor.
A Marchesa spokesperson told The Daily Beast that Chapman and Craig were not available for interviews. Nor would they answer specific questions posed by The Daily Beast about the apparent connection between Marchesa and SeaMarch, or about any involvement by Weinstein, direct or indirect, in Marchesa’s business or in SeaMarch.
Through the spokesperson, Craig did not respond to a question about whether she still stands by her statement that Weinstein has “never” had anything to do financially with Marchesa.
The Daily Beast asked Weinstein’s spokesperson if Weinstein accepted, denied, or wished to challenge any of the details presented in our questions and was told again that Weinstein declined to comment.
Weinstein’s spokesperson suggested we contact The Weinstein Company for comment. We did, but the company did not comment by press time.
Many unanswered questions still surround the relationship of Harvey Weinstein—his money and business interests—to Marchesa. To what extent, if at all, did Weinstein financially kickstart or help set up Marchesa? Is SeaMarch still existent, and is or was Weinstein an officer or president of it?
Is SeaMarch still based at the same address as Marchesa? If so, what is its business now? Did the two companies have any financial ties to each other, or to Weinstein personally, or to his company? Who paid for and produced Chapman’s “Pearl” for J.C. Penney advertisement that appeared in a Weinstein Company-distributed movie DVD? Did he in the past, or does Weinstein now, hold any position or have a financial stake within Marchesa?
The Daily Beast has put all these and other questions to Chapman, Marchesa, and Weinstein. They are so far unanswered. Maybe the rich and famous women who wear Chapman’s fairytale red carpet dresses will be curious to know the answers, too.
Another source who works in the fashion business told The Daily Beast: “The SeaMarch situation is highly curious. Harvey’s name is an anchor around the neck of the business. If this gets out, it will kill it—no matter how many ‘Letters from the Editor’ Anna Wintour writes.”
—Lisa Schwartz contributed to this report