Behind the Seams: Badgley Mischka

All hail Badgley Mischka, the kings of glitz and glam.  They’ve built their brand on show-stopping gowns that scream old Hollywood elegance.  For the past 22 years, business and life partners, Mark Badgley and James Mischka have worked to expand their empire to include fragrance, sunglasses and some of the most decadent jewelry you can find.  I had the pleasure of sitting down with them in their gorgeous Manhattan showroom to go behind the scenes with one of fashion’s most fabulous duos! 


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What inspired your Spring 2011 collections?

We kind of went back to when we first started Badgley Mischka 22 years ago and were inspired by this film called White Mischief from 1988.  Very stylish movie, so beautiful. It’s about a bunch of English ex-pats living in South Africa.  The characters were very stylish and decadent.  Morning, day and night they wore evening clothes.  So we merged that with the feeling of the 70s which is such an important trend this season.  And that was the vibe for spring!  more…


What new concepts or materials did you introduce in the collections?

We took a lot of classic fabrications like georgette, chiffon, and crepe and worked with the fabric in new ways.  So you have this element of classic that feels entirely new because of the fabric manipulation.  The fabric was very diaphanous, very weightless – volume but the clothes stayed feather light, which is always such an important thing for spring.  With silhouette, we had a lot of volume on top, slim on the bottom.  Everything was fluid and hung softly.  Very elegant and feminine.  Very 70s glam, like Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver.


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Which part of the design process do you like the best?

James:  My favorite part is when we get to the show and the girls are all lined up in hair and makeup and in the clothes.  You finally see everything come together because you’re often bringing in jewelry from one place and shoes from another.  Having it all come together and seeing your vision complete is always the best feeling.


How are the Badgley Mischka and Mark & James brands growing in 2011?

We’re experiencing nice growth.  The M&J brand has been fantastic.  It’s a new customer for us.  It’s a new type of product.  It’s accessible.  Our couture gowns are more a product for a once in a lifetime event, which is great and we love the fantasy of the evening dress and it’s our core business.  But it’s nice to work on a product that you get to wear more than once.


Big retail expansion: flagship opening in 10 days on Rodeo Drive.  It’s in an historical building and will be incredible.  We’re super excited.  We opened a store in on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach.  Our next project is to open a beautiful store on Madison Avenue in New York.  Also, our collection goes to Europe so we’re building a great business there.


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How does Rent the Runway play into your growth strategy?

You guys have a great selection on your site!  Rent the Runway is a great introduction of our brand to a new customer.  It’s such a great way for a girl to experience Badgley Mischka or Mark & James and we don’t have to sell her a car to do it.  It’s such a unique concept.  It makes fashion fun, which it should be!  You shouldn’t have to agonize over a decision to buy a dress or not.  If you can’t justify the price tag, renting is the perfect option.  And life is complicated.  Everyone has their uniform so it’s great to be able to rent something out of your comfort zone.  It’s also an education for women to see that clothes really can transport you somewhere or into someone else for a moment.  And men must love Rent the Runway!


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If you could sit front row at a fashion show for any designer in history, who would it be and why?

Mark:  I would sit in Geoffrey Beene’s fashion shows in the late 70s/early 80s. One of my favorite shows was in the early or mid 80s.  He rented a flower warehouse in the NYC floral district and left all the flowers out in the containers – thousands of big buckets of hydrangea and the girls were in these spring floral gowns and it was freezing because it was refrigerated.  But it was so amazing because the girls were wafting through all of these flowers.  It was breathtaking and the clothes were just phenomenal.


How do you celebrate finishing a collection?

In the “olden days” a designer would finish a collection and take off for two weeks to some exotic place.  Gone are those days!  We jump right into the next collection.  But we each have our own little diversions…

Mark: I have horses out on Long Island and I like to show horses so that’s my thing. 

James:  I veg. And I cook. I just love the art of transformation…fabric into dress, onions into soup!


If a girl was going to purchase her first Badgley Mischka or Mark & James piece, what would you want it to be?

Mark:  Something signature, something glamorous and elegant.  We’re not about office clothes; we’re all about fantasy!

James: Something that makes you feel like a princess when you wear it, whatever that may be!


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