By  on April 26, 2005

NEW YORK — Flocked by fans and a few unexpected animal rights activists, Mark Badgley and James Mischka made their first public appearances Thursday as part of a Candie’s-owned company.

During a trunk show at Bergdorf Goodman, Kelly Klein was among the first to arrive to wish them well. While she chatted with the designers, others checked out the collection on the fourth floor, which included intricate evening gowns and beaded caftans. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals also made a surprise visit, protesting briefly before being escorted off the floor.

Klein and Badgley are friends from way back and often ride horses together and compete on the same equestrian track. Arianna Boardman, Joanne DiGuerdiola, Jamee Gregory, Lauren DuPont, Ann Dexter Jones, Caroline Hirsch, Natalie Kaplan and Angela Rich also turned up. Aside from the designers, the afternoon’s other big draw was the eveningwear. “It always is the gowns,” Mischka said.

Robert Burke, Bergdorf Goodman’s senior vice president, fashion office, said, “Our customers really missed Badgley Mischka being in the store.”

Bestsellers included a blush and gold lamé jacket with chiffon skirt at $5,300, a blonde sable beaded vest at $36,600, an ivory and black striped silk gown at $2,420, a metallic bronze and blue beaded, embroidered skirt suit at $3,990, and a short azure and gold cocktail dress with full skirt and embroidered insets at $4,530.

Earlier this month the designers were surprised to find Coral Gables, Fla., shoppers looking for cocktail dresses instead of long gowns and fur coats at the Neiman Marcus store there. “It’s nice to be missed, but I’d rather be back,” Mischka said.

Michael Vollbracht, designer for Bill Blass, has also been busy greeting customers. Last week at Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship, he helped ring up nearly $2 million in sales at a five-day trunk show, said Michael Groveman, chief executive officer of Bill Blass Ltd. “This is a very strong collection for our traditional customers and younger customers,” he said.

The label has made it no secret that it is trying to woo women in their 20s and 30s who may not have bought the brand in the past. Judging from last week’s bestsellers at Saks — a short python jacket and skirt at $8,500, a cocktail dress and a coordinating jacket with feathers at $9,500 and a paisley cashmere coat at $5,800 — they may be heeding that cause.Vollbracht said he was pleased to see a variety of women buying the collection during his appearance last Tuesday afternoon. This spring he will make more of an effort to host trunk shows. Next month he will be at Saks’ store in Bala Cynwyd, Pa., as well as at Bergdorf Goodman.

“I am always thrilled to be on the sales floor. It is one of the most important things a designer must do,” Vollbracht said. “Know thy customer, meet thy customer.”

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