“Elegance is the only beauty that never fades” – Audrey Hepburn
Statement-making gowns and jaw-dropping designs are a no-brainer for Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig, the British duo behind Marchesa. The brand’s dreamy aesthetic combines elegant opulence and timeless femininity to create something truly ethereal. Draped in tulle and lace with subtle embellishments and intricate embroideries, Marchesa’s eveningwear is something of a masterpiece. Chapman and Craig’s vintage-inspired line heavily influenced by Asian culture and feminine beauty has made an incredible mark on the fashion world.
So last week when I had the chance to MEET Marchesa’s Keren Craig, you’ll understand how giddy I was. It took me nearly 3 days to pick out my outfit. The Marchesa masterminds were in Chicago to receive the first-ever Presidents’ Circle Honors by the Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum (#casual!). Afterwards, the pair held a preview of their collection at Neiman Marcus and I was beyond honored to attend.
I wanted to wrap my body in every breathtaking gown I set my eyes on and never take it off. I was in AWE which made chatting with Keren that much more amazing. We chatted about the origin of Marchesa, her vision for the collections, and exciting upcoming plans! Check out the full interview below, babes!
Janet: Keren, it is such an honor to meet you. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us!
Keren: Oh my goodness of course. Thank you for coming and covering!
J: Of course! Congratulations on your award today, I heard it was fabulous. Did you have fun?
K: Thank you! I had the best time. I actually didn’t expect to receive an actual award so it’s really such a pleasure. It’ll come back to New York with us and sit in our office.
J: We absolutely love the brand – it’s so iconic. It’s beautiful, it’s feminine, and such an emotional collection you and your team designed. What was it about European socialite and celebrity, Marchesa Luisa Casati that made her the perfect muse and namesake for the brand?
K: I was reading the book Infinite Variety: The Life And Legend of Marchesa Casati, and just loved the idea that she saw herself as a living work of art and just how totally fearless she was. She just had no boundaries and had fun with every aspect of her life – especially in her fashion. So I think that’s why we were gravitating towards her.
And Georgina and I’s surnames aren’t particularly sexy, so that’s not really going to work! We just thought Marchesa was so beautiful.
J: If there is a celebrity that you feel epitomizes the brand, who would it be?
K: I think it’s very hard to say. We’ve been lucky in the past to dress so many incredible actresses. But I think if we’re talking about moments. Then when Sandra Bullock accepted her Oscar [for Best Actress] in our gold beaded gown. That was such a standout moment for us, so it feels like an iconic moment for the brand.
J: And she is so full of energy! Do you feel it was a perfect moment because of Sandra or because of the Oscars and the moment itself?
K: Everything just came together on that magical night for her and for us. She’s an incredible actress and such a lovely person. We were just very honored to dress her that night.
J: Is there a monumental moment that stands out for the brand? In exception to Sandra, of course?
K: I think the first time we ever did a Red Carpet dress was for Renee Zellweger. It first time we had done anything like that! We were still in England and the next day I just remember going to the news stands and seeing the picture of her on the cover of every newspaper in our dress. That was a really incredible moment I will never forget.
J: Wow that’s so special. Your designs are so feminine and romantic. What does feminine mean to you?
K: To me it means beauty, celebration – celebrating the women’s body. That’s really what the brand stands for: women designing for women. And I think that’s very important for us
J: So another question I have – will Marchesa ever do ready to wear or a shoe line?!
K: We actually have a shoe line – I’m wearing a pair right now! And we actually have been getting a little more into ready to wear and have been working on a lot of separates. A little suiting and things like that. Slowly we’re beginning to do more pieces for daytime as well.
J: Is there a difference stylistically when designing a Marchesa wedding dress or a Red Carpet gown?
K: Not really! You know, we really approach the designing the same way. Obviously sometimes we work with actresses and design something specifically for the red carpet, but quite often people will choose things from the runway. And we have a set process of how we go about designing the runway pieces. We start with an inspiration board, then we make mood boards, and then we start designing into the collection. The same goes for the bridal collection as well.
Whatever the collection it is that we’re designing, we always start with those moods boards and then the color boards, the fabric boards, the embroideries, and then sketches. So it just all stems from the same process.
J: I notice you use a lot of lace and embroidering – is that the same concept in the wedding dresses as well?
K: Yes! It is very similar. We love textures. We’re not into flat straight fabrics. We’re about layering and we’re about 3 dimension – whether that be within embroidery for a corded lace or some kind of texture.
J: Do each one of your dresses tell a story?
K: Absolutely! We like to think that a woman could put on one of our dresses and really feel transformed and turn into her most beautiful self.
J: I’ve seen some of your clients. And it’s just astounding to see [one of your dresses] on a hanger, then you see it physically on somebody and it’s just magical. It’s such a beautiful transformation. Its gorgeous on the hanger, but it creates that person into a totally different human.
K: Yes, yes! It’s so different when you have someone in it. I’m so glad you said that! I just think everyone loves dressing up. It’s the power of that magical feeling when you’re younger and you love to dress up and have fun. We like to think people can do that in our clothes.
J: It’s really fascinating. There are so many galas, black ties, and cocktail events and most of my friends struggle finding the ‘perfect dress’. I always tell them to wear whatever you want! It’s always better to be overdressed, you never want to be underdressed.
K: I stand by that motto!! I always overdress! But we want our pieces to be storytellers. We want to create pieces that stand alone and that they’re pieces we hope people will have in their wardrobes and pass down to their children. It’s not about a trend. It’s about a piece that you’ll have as a keepsake and wear it again and again and pass it down to your children.
J: How long does it take to put a full dress together? I know it’s an ensemble, takes stages.
K: We’ll start a collection about 4-5 months before the runway show. So that’s where the brith of the collection happens. But at the same time we may be designing multiple collections at once. So you have to wear lots of different hats and change hats as you change into a different collection that you may be designing, but that’s really the fun of it.
J: Well I think that’s all I have! Thank you SO much it was so lovely meeting you.