Fantasy and fairy tale are Marchesa’s bread and butter. As Keren Craig says, giving Grazia an exclusive preview of the collection in an exclusive Upper East Side hotel, ‘The more over the top the better’.
So how does Marchesa fare in this new era for the brand, post #MeToo with no catwalk to show off the designs on? Does it go sombre and austere? Not at all, it sings even louder to the choir who already love and wear the brand. The autumn/winter 2018 collection takes its cue from 17th century Dutch floral paintings which though highly detailed, bear little resemblance to reality. They are an exaggerated romantic vision.
This translated into gowns constructed of cloudlike tiers of tulle and millefeuille layers of lace, embroidered with tactile chenille, velvet and organza orchids, poppies and anemones, or hand painted with floral prints. Painstaking embroidery, metallic bugle beading and pearls heighten the opulence. Sleeves are puffed, waists nipped in and cascades of sculptural ruffles – all freehand draped by Georgina Chapman – frame the silhouette in waterfalls of curlicues. Bows are everywhere. Stretch velvet cocktails and a smattering of separates are the label’s concession to reality, albeit the Marchesa woman’s definition of reality (she doesn’t get on the subway, put it that way).
Marchesa is a label that’s superlatively romantic, but in a sense the dresses are also armour for their wearer – striking pieces that she can escape into. ‘I want someone to feel magical and at their most beautiful,’ says Craig of the Marchesa effect. ‘I want someone to feel empowered. At the end of the day we really believe that if you put on a dress you feel fabulous and you feel like you can take on the world’. In that sense, it was very much business as usual.