Byline: Jeannie Chen
New York — Mark Badgley and James Mischka are no strangers to the quest for the perfect accessory. Their signature line of evening bags and shoes has had a zealous following since the accessories were first introduced in 1998. The duo’s couture-quality details and old Hollywood-style glamour have made their designs a favorite for celebrities, the social set and brides alike — each bag has the look of a treasured heirloom, while the shoes seem destined for a red carpet. But what’s a Badgley Mischka devotee to do for lunch?
With this in mind, the team has expanded into day accessories for fall. “The line is more about lifestyle now,” says Mischka. “It’s not stripped down; it’s daytime going into cocktail.” Badgley adds that the pair made the transition because “we’ve always had an affinity for evening, but our customer base has broadened.”
It’s clear that the inspiration behind the new day styles comes from the same source as their evening looks. Don’t expect a practical shoe or tote bag. “I don’t even own a sneaker!” Badgley exclaims. For the collection, the team stayed true to what they do best — sexy shapes, intricate embellishments and hints of Thirties and Forties style. The changes are mostly in materials and colors: leathers, crocodile and suede in earthy tones of bordeaux, chocolate and black with gold and metallic accents. The silhouette of the footwear is sleek and long, a shape that reminds Mischka, he says, of the “Concord jet.” Some of the strongest styles are their interpretations of the spectator shoe, which is elegantly revamped into a stiletto pump and mid-heeled boot. The bags are luxurious versions of the classic satchel, best in crocodile.
Cynthia Marcus, vice president and divisional merchandising manager of ladies shoes at Neiman Marcus says, “The quality is good, they look great and their customer will easily translate Badgley Mischka into daytime. Mark and James’s designs have a unique point of view, and I’m confident they will be successful.” Marcus said that 35 to 40 percent of her order consisted of day looks.
Eileen Warner, vice president and division merchandise manager of handbags and accessories at Saks Fifth Avenue, says, “Badgley Mischka has a devoted clientele. They always have a good sell-through.” She declined to specify the size of her order, but added that “they have a very important presentation at the store.”
The team chose to produce the line in-house rather than work with a licensee. “We are doing it ourselves, so we are taking it very seriously,” Mischka says. “Accessories touch a greater population, and they make it more of a complete brand.” The shoes are manufactured in Florence, while the bags are made in both Italy and New York. Accessories are already the fastest-growing part of their company and make up 15 percent of revenues. “Of course, evening is our core business,” says Badgley, “but we had so many requests for day from our accounts and when we made trunk show appearances.” Adds Mischka: “Starting something new like this has a wonderful feeling of possibilities.” Prices range from $500 to $1,500 for bags and $300 to $1,200 for shoes.