One of the things we love at this time of year is dreaming about pretty, feminine dresses … something about the onset of spring makes us think about ditching the yoga pants and booties for a lacy confection and super girly heels. That’s why it was the perfect time to talk to Marchesa designer (and Project Runway All-Stars judge) Georgina Chapman when she dropped by Neiman Marcus at Fashion Island to show off the spring looks in Marcesha’s sister line, Notte Marchesa.
Filled with elegant, womanly silhouettes and sweet details such as colored lace, embroidery, and garden prints, Notte Marchesa’s cocktail and date night dresses run from about $800-$1,200-plus. Although less costly than Marchesa’s couture and red carpet gowns, Notte features the same pretty textiles, shapes, and dedication to style.
Chapman, beautiful, trim, gracious and impossibly glamorous (as well as friendly and easy to laugh) told us about Notte, red carpet season, what makes a woman beautiful and how she handles the occasional fashion faux pas …
SWL: How many dresses did you have on the Oscar red carpet?
G.C.: We had five girls so it was amazing and we did custom-made for Sofia Vergara, we made a custom gown for Chrissy Tiegen and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
SWL: Is Red Carpet season stressful for you?
SWL: Is it more or less stressful than the collections?
G.C.: It happens at the same time, so therefore it’s just very stressful. You have a fashion show and it’s usually about a week, two weeks before the Oscars and of course you have the Golden Globes before that. But when I say it’s stressful, it’s also really fun and it’s everything I ever dreamed of doing. It’s sort of the combination of whole thing and when you’re passionate about what you do and you really love what you do and obviously it’s stressful because you want to do the best job that you can, especially since these girls have entrusted you to make these one-off pieces and there’s a huge responsibility attached to it. They’re walking out there; they’re gonna get photographed at every angle, they’re gonna be critiqued by bloggers, by magazines, by the world’s media and I do feel incredibly responsible. I want them to their utmost best and make sure that they look perfection so I do what I can and, for me, it’s a big job.
SWL: How long does it take to get a dress ready for the Oscars?
G.C.: It can be months or it can be last minute; you just put in all your resources and make it work. But obviously the more time you have the better. With Jennifer Jason Leigh we started working just before the Golden Globes, so we worked with her a while on it going back and forth and sketching; she came and tried on dresses to get the feel for the kind of thing she wanted; we worked with her stylist. It was a really lovely process, she’s such a talented woman … really talented and really lovely.
SWL: Tell us about Notte …
G.C.: We’ve been doing that line since we started Marchesa. We launched both lines with Neiman Marcus back in 2006 or something like that. Neiman Marcus were incredible partners with us; it was something they encouraged us to do when we launched the brand. It was an unusual way of starting a brand by immediately going in a dual price tier but something we felt was important.
G.C.: We wanted to reach different customers and I think there’s a need for each kind of dress, you know? A Marchesa customer who might buy a Marchesa gown and Notte dress. And that’s the same woman, that’s very much the same woman. You know, someone may want a dress for a luncheon or a dinner dress and then for their gala they might want a Marchesa dress. I found that our customer was really looking for a lot of different options.
SWL: Do you design both simultaneously?
G.C.: Yes, they are both happening at the same time. Both are the same general vibe, Notte wants to trend in the same way as Marchesa. That’s important because they are sister brands and it’s important that one diffuses into the other. But you know just from color stories, and in general aesthetic and mood, that’s what it’s about; to make a statement for a season. It’s important that Notte reflects that statement, too and that attitude.
SWL: What was the statement for Spring?
G.C.: The theme is we “aviary garden,” very soft and whimsical, colorful laces.
SWL: What is the statement for Fall?
G.C.: For the Marchesa line we looked at (American painter John) Singer Sargent and for Notte we looked at gardens. I just showed fall so my head is stuck in that. I’ve had two collections since Spring 2016 (was shown in Sept. 15).
SWL: There used to be only Spring and Fall collections, but things have changed …
G.C.: Yes. Now we have fall, and pre-fall … I do feel our customer is incredibly diverse where she is in the world so I think the whole idea of “fall” and “Spring” for us isn’t as important because we have the woman in Florida where it’s warm all year round so she’s not necessarily going to lean toward a “fall product”, so for us it’s always about having a balance. You know just describing a new mood, it’s exciting for the customer; it’s exciting for us because we get to do some more dresses, we get to present something new.
SWL: Are you thinking of doing direct-from-the-runway selling as some lines are doing now?
G.C.: Yes. I think it’s going to be exciting to see what happens; this is the first season that designers have started to do that so I’ll watch with great interest and see how that goes.
SWL: You’re so elegant, and you design evening wear, do you ever just wear jeans and a Tee?
G.C.: Sure. Of course I do. Yeh.
SWL: In your opinion, what silhouette is the most flattering for a woman?
G.C.: Every woman is a different shape, a different size. What might look good on one woman might not look good on another. It’s really about finding out what you feel good in and what suits your body type and I think once you have that nailed, then it’s much easier to shop, and much easier to know what to buy and what to put on. And I think people shouldn’t be afraid of fashion either; it’s OK to have fun, it’s OK to fail sometimes. It should be an enjoyable thing. I think if a woman feels good in something that’s when they shine and when they feel beautiful and it doesn’t have to be because it’s in fashion. I will see someone in something and think “God, they look amazing,” and it wouldn’t necessary be something that I would wear, but it’s suits them and they look incredible and it’s about a woman owning that.
SWL: Have you ever made a fashion mistake?
G.C.: Absolutely. Of course it happens but, I think, “so what,” maybe it was right that day. Maybe in retrospect you don’t get it but maybe it was right for that moment in time.
See Notte Marchesa’s Spring 2016 looks at Neiman Marcus, Fashion Island, 601 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach,