- The Washington Times - Monday, February 15, 2010

NEW YORK | Marchesa is a glamorous, movie-star fashion house: Its specialty is the show-stopping red-carpet dresses you’re likely to see on Kate Hudson, Sienna Miller or “Annie,” known to the rest of us as Anne Hathaway (who wore a Marchesa to the recent premiere of “Valentine’s Day”).

The gowns, all one-of-a-kind, started making the rounds to Hollywood stylists just as the weekly celebrity magazines exploded into a huge force in fashion.

The buzz started when actress Renee Zellweger wore a red Marchesa dress to a high-wattage premiere, and it’s been one star after another, including singer Rihanna in a laser-cut leather number and model-turned-actress Cameron Diaz in a micro-mini modern tuxedo style.

“Celebrities are drawn to Marchesa because the dresses are ultra-feminine and beautifully made. They truly make one feel like a modern princess,” says Cindy Weber Cleary, InStyle magazine’s fashion director.

But, while the red carpet got Marchesa noticed, Marchesa went from making a dozen dresses to hundreds overnight after Neiman Marcus asked the designers to do both a top-tier collection and a secondary label called Notte.

The gowns seem a perfect complement to the label’s co-founders, Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig, two Brits-turned-New Yorkers who fit nicely into the glitzy fabric of the fashion world, clinking champagne glasses with the A-list of editors, stylists and models who attended the Marchesa preview at New York Fashion Week.

The two women can’t decide if it’s their Greek goddess silhouette or the rose-front dress they’ve done in every color that is their calling-card look. It might be the strapless rose one, they reason, because so many women have bought it, which is even more gratifying than seeing something on the red carpet.

For them, with Marchesa a part of everyday life, they’re either dressed up or in pajamas — without a lot of middle ground.

“And,” said Ms. Craig, “we’re usually overdressed.”