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BEVERLY HILLS — Mark Badgley and James Mischka are gearing up for a potentially landmark year for their brand.
The pair, visiting their Rodeo Drive boutique last week, revealed some of their brand initiatives in the works — from new licenses to a New York flagship.
They were in town to be honored by the Costume Council, the clothing and textile preservation arm of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. An afternoon fashion presentation and “conversation” before an audience of 600 members on April 30 was followed the next evening by a sold-out dinner filled with 200 boosters at downtown’s vintage California Club.
At the top of this year’s to-do list is finalizing licensees. They are “close, like a couple of months” to a fragrance deal, and an eyewear license could close within the month with styles at retail by April 2004.
That would include men’s eyewear. “It’s inspired by Mark’s wearing of glasses,” noted Mischka. “And your obsession with eyewear,” quickly added his partner. Although the pair are also flirting with expanding into men’s accoutrements, even possibly shirting — they acknowledge that is still very much in the future. But certainly a possibility.
“The men’s business is just so depressed right now. We just think the whole casual Friday thing is an abomination. It should become glamorous Fridays,” enthused Mischka.
Outsourcing footwear, done in-house at present, along with the couture evening bags, is also “under some discussion,” said Badgley, adding that “it would enable us to broaden distribution.”
Footwear, now manufactured outside of Venice, and the embellished evening bags, which are made in New York with frames and hardware from Italy, are about 10 percent of the company’s retail sales, which are a bit over $40 million including furs, bridal, collection, shoes and handbags.
This next wave of category expansion comes a year after the house introduced a separates group for Saks Fifth Avenue, also available at Badgley Mischka’s signature boutique. The separates category, they said, is growing in importance and within a year could account for 30 to 40 percent of sales.
This spring, the duo introduced Atelier, a collection in unlimited color and fabric options for mother-of-the-bride and other themed occasions. Sold alongside its five-year-old bridal collection, counting nearly one-fifth of sales, Atelier is exceeding expectations, noted the designers.
Already this year, Badgley Mischka opened a 2,500-square-foot bridal salon on the lower floor of the Fifth Avenue Escada store in New York, as well as a smaller salon in the San Francisco Escada door at Union Square. The company is a unit of Escada USA.
A fur line, licensed to BC International, bowed last fall. BC Group is an affiliate of Birger Christensen, the firm that operates fur salons in stores such as Saks.
Excluding any licenses, the two said the latest initiatives are expected to boost growth by 20 percent.
“Adding fragrance, eyewear, and even broadening footwear, it could double the overall business,” noted Badgley.
The pair are actively seeking a site for a New York store, which would be their second freestanding store after Beverly Hills, which opened in September 2001.
Since then, either one or both are out here every eight weeks or so to meet with customers. “The more we do in L.A., the better we both have an affinity for the women here and the city,” added Mischka, who spent his teen years living here; Badgley moved here when he attended USC.
Clearly, the LACMA supporters at Thursday night’s gala proved the red carpet set aren’t their only local fans. Added Badgley, as the duo were inundated throughout the night by wide-eyed socialites of every kind: “They’re such a fun, cross section of Los Angeles women.”