You invested in the famed fashion house Halston four years ago. This summer the project collapsed, and you, investor Tamara Mellon, stylist Rachel Zoe, designer Marios Schwab, and Sarah Jessica Parker walked away. What went wrong?
My knowledge of fashion could fill a thimble. I always read in those Harvard manuals that you bet on the talent. Tamara chose Marco Zannini, Rachel wanted Giambattista Valli—I couldn’t tell the difference. There were forces on the board that alienated Rachel. Once we lost Rachel, the dream team was diminished.
Were you surprised that you couldn’t make this work? Your wife, Georgina Chapman, is the successful founder of Marchesa, after all.
One thing I realized, living with a fashion designer and knowing a lot of her friends, is that when the designer runs the company or the creative director runs the company, that’s when it works. Businesspeople should not run the company.
You and Sarah Jessica Parker took a lot of flak. Why did you leave?
Sarah was prepared to go into the office every day. Her division worked spectacularly. But the couture wasn’t selling, and the financial partners got spooked. They wanted to go to an all-licensing model. At that point I said to Sarah, “Let’s go.” And she said, “Let’s do it together.” We wish them luck, but it’s not the Halston we wanted to see. It’s just using the name and licensing it for department stores. I have better things to do with my day, and Sarah Jessica does, too.
You’re releasing a biopic of Wallis Simpson, which Madonna is directing. Is it hard telling Madonna what to do?
I never tell Madonna what to do. I make suggestions. We’re combustible, but in a good way.
You made Frida, which was directed by Julie Taymor, who was recently fired from directing Spider-Man, the Broadway play that was plagued by injuries and bad reviews. What do you make of the musical?
I saw it with my daughters, and I told the producers they had to make changes. I said, “I worked with Julie. She’s brilliant. But you don’t have to listen to her. She’s not the word of God.” I also sent one of my development executives to work on the script. Julie doesn’t know that. She’ll find out when she reads this article. I think the show’s fantastic now.