NEW YORK — Spring, the season for renewal, has not been lost on Mark Badgley and James Mischka, considering the pair signed a deal for a bridge collection Monday — their brand’s third licensing agreement in five weeks.
Badgley Mischka’s parent company, Candie’s Inc., which bought the designer label from Escada last October, has finalized a licensing deal with Groupe JS International here for a bridge collection that will be launched for spring 2006 retail selling. Through a strategic partnership with Candie’s, Groupe JS International already produces the designer’s high-end collection.
In the past month, Candie’s also gave the go-ahead for a licensing deal with Pristine Fashion Group for a rollout of Badgley Mischka stores, and with Riviera Concepts for fragrance and other beauty products.
Candie’s chief executive officer, Neil Cole, said, “We think there is a tremendous opportunity to bring red-carpet luxury and glamour to a broader audience of women.”
The designers and Cole went back and forth about whether this was the right time to pursue such a venture. But as Badgley said in a phone interview Monday, the decision was far from rash.
“We’ve been doing Badgley Mischka for 16 years. Yes, we’re ready,” he said. “This is something we have wanted to do for a long time. Our store base has been asking for this for years.”
Badgley Mischka also has found a new showroom at 550 Seventh Avenue, where designers such as Oscar de la Renta and Donna Karan also reside. The company expects to relocate to the 8,200-square-foot space, which is quadruple the size of its temporary West 40th Street showroom, in early October. Designed with a modernist approach and a nod to traditional glamour, the new showroom, which will house both collections, will have a residential feel with padded silk walls and dark marble tabletops.
Initially, the 40-piece bridge collection will focus on cocktail dresses and eveningwear, but future shipments will include day-into-evening pieces. Unlike the existing collection, which retails in the thousands of dollars, the new collection will retail from $500 to $1,500. The designers expect the new group to be a hit with women who are familiar with their label, but until now, could not afford it.
“We’ve been spending a long time building up the reputation and image of the brand, and now we want to expand to broader avenues that more people can afford to buy,” Mischka said.
Many customers can afford to buy only one couture piece a season even though they have many special events to attend, so the sharper-priced collection will give them options. In addition, the couture customer will buy the line for more relaxed and at-home occasions, Mischka said.
The easier-on-the-wallet prices should attract women between the ages of 20 and 50 — compared with women between the ages of 30 and 50 who already buy the existing collection, Mischka said.
Fran Ornstein, a 22-year veteran of Chetta B, has joined Groupe JS as vice president of sales and merchandising for the new division. Don O’Neill is another new hire, as design director. He spent the last decade working at Carmen Marc Valvo.
The bridge collection will be previewed in August and will launch in September. The designers have not decided if they will show any of it on the runway at 7th on Sixth in September, where they plan to show their high-end eveningwear.
Having secured deals for bridge, eyewear, handbags, furs, bridal and the aforementioned fragrance and freestanding stores, Badgley Mischka is considering adding signature footwear and lingerie.