By and  on March 16, 2005

NEW YORK — Unlike many designers who use new financial backing to overhaul their operations, Mark Badgley and James Mischka have rehired many of the people who made them successful in the first place. Beleaguered by financial problems, the designers sat out the spring season but vowed they would be back for fall. In October, Candie’s Inc. acquired Badgley Mischka, putting the eveningwear powerhouse label back on track. The designers are raring to go, thanks to a strategic partnership between Candie’s and Groupe JS International, an eveningwear manufacturer based here that is now producing the designers’ collection.  While all these changes were under way, some of the Badgley Mischka team waited; others took jobs elsewhere. As fragmented as the last few months have been, Mischka and Badgley appear to have dealt with it all with their usual equanimity. They are creating some order amid all the chaos of starting over. Since November, a second apartment in the brownstone in which they live has served as a working studio; for the past week, the St. Regis Hotel here has been home for the fall collection, and the team is using yet another temporary space on West 40th Street. And, finally, they’re negotiating for a Seventh Avenue showroom. But the boys are back producing an exquisite, well-edited collection for fall.  “While this collection is more edited than usual, it still represents the same ideas of luxury and glamour it always has,” said Mischka. “We were inspired this season by Charles James and the mood and palette of Fifties couture.” There are soft pinks, beiges and blues in light fabrics. A long hammered satin skirt and chinchilla-edged cashmere sweater in pink and a beige silk chiffon gown detailed with pale blue ribbon and crystals are two standouts. The most lavish looks are the furs — all of which are beautifully shaped and toned as part of the evening looks: white sable boleros; a pink weasel pullover with a crystal-paved cowl neck; a golden sable vest shown over a black cashmere sweater edged in sable, smoked crystals and pearls. The designers, even though they were sidelined for spring, have not been out of the loop, so even “volume,” as Mischka calls it, is here. “But our version has flirty hems, and softer, fuller skirts, for example. It’s subtle.”Even more subtle are their chic and svelte tweed suits or coat over a sleeveless sheath. But Badgley and Mischka are as happy with, and focused on, their business partnership as they are on designing. They believe they have both the support and the autonomy needed to make it all work. Robert Burke, vice president and senior fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman, said, “We are more than thrilled to have them back. Their collection is as strong or stronger than it has ever been. It’s focused and well-balanced. It is showing them doing what they do best.”Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus have picked up the line, Badgley said. A launch party has not yet been finalized.Both designers gave the arrangement with Groupe JS International two thumbs-up for enabling them to set up the business as it was before. To keep their complete focus on luxury, they said, they are using all the same resources and rehiring design, sales and production staff. Well-known for dressing actresses for the red carpet, as they did with Kate Winslet at this year’s Academy Awards, Badgley Mischka is counting on its Hollywood clientele to help ramp up sales. Hollywood’s Golden Age is an eternal spring of inspiration for the designers, and this fall is no exception. Actresses, who never stop acting and whose lives are played out for the world to see, left their marks on their fall collection. As Badgley said, there’s nothing wrong with needing to look the part of the star every moment. In a statement, Mitchell Hops, president and chief executive officer of Groupe JS International, said, “Mark and James are among America’s most talented and recognized designers and the favorites of the young Hollywood set.”Neil Cole, ceo of Candie’s, said the one-two punch of JS Groupe’s manufacturing know-how and Candie’s marketing mettle will take Badgley Mischka to “an entirely new level.”

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