In 2023, Badgley Mischka will celebrate 35 years as a brand, an enviable feat in an industry where longterm success is a gift handed out sparingly. Over those past three and a half decades, designers Mark Badgley and James Mischka have changed little, staying true to their lust for old Hollywood glamour and fanciful red carpet moments for celebrities ranging from Dame Helen Mirren to Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen.
"James and I would be more intimidated by going and designing a five-pocket jean or a T-shirt than we would some extravagant red carpet couture gown," Badgley tells Byrdie.
Most recently the brand has expanded its fragrance collection, launching three new floral perfumes—Poppy, Audrey, and Ava. Byrdie tagged along for the campaign's shoot in Palm Beach, featuring Miami-based model Ahlam Khan, in the garden of the Norton Museum of Art. Below, the designers share their inspiration for the shoot, the secrets to their longevity, and how they work together after 35 years.
The Inspiration For the Campaign
James: The fragrances are all floral based, so we have flowers made in Italy as the props. We were going to shoot on the beach, but I think this worked out much better because it’s so lush and green.
Mark: It’s very relaxing, very seductive. You can almost picture a scent wafting through this space.
How the Brand Has Evolved Over the Years
James: We’ve always been about elegance and glamour. We always wanted to do clothes that have a bit of fantasy to them, a bit of a dream to them.
Mark: There’s a thread of glamour through everything we do, whether it’s a teacup or a red carpet gown. James and I have always had an affinity for evening dressing and the fantasy that comes with all of that.
We love the nostalgia, the sort of old Palm Beach. It’s where the chicest, most glamorous women hung their hats at one point or another. You can still sniff out those spots and see a little bit of what that world was like.
How the Fashion Industry Has Changed
Mark: The industry is so different now, just the pace that it works at. There’s so many voices now in fashion whereas in the olden days there were only a few. It changes a mile a minute, but at the same time our customer’s desires don’t really change that much. They want to look beautiful, they want clothes that make them happy and put a smile on their face. Life is stressful and they want to feel good—that’s never changed.
On the Badgley Mischka Woman
Mark: She’s more casual by day, but she still likes to dress up. She still likes to make a statement, but her life has become pretty practical for the most part compared to how it was maybe 30 or 40 years ago. You can never substitute that feeling of getting dressed up and going out for a beautiful evening with your favorite people or off to your favorite restaurant.
James: Our favorite time is when the night is young.
The Secret to Their Longevity
James: I think it’s about staying true to what you do. We’ve never been a trendy company or brand. We always try to be current and modern, of course, because you can’t have your head in the sand, but I think that one of the secrets we’ve understood is you have to stay true to what you do, and if you make women look beautiful, it will always work.
Mark: We’ve always stayed in our lane. At times we’ve passed on big trends, but in the long run we’ve kind of been the turtle that wins the race. We do what we do, and our customer knows what we do. They can count on us.
James: Now that we’re considered a heritage brand, the daughters of our original customers are coming to us, which is great.
How They Manage Working Together
Mark: We’re both capricorns so we haven’t killed each other yet. This industry is not the easiest, so it’s always been great to have a partner in crime. Because it’s usually us against something else. On occasion, we’ll disagree—probably the most difficult part of what we do is editing a collection. Maybe I’m in love with something and he doesn’t like it, which doesn’t happen often, but on occasion it does, and that dress suddenly disappears from the showroom. Or he’ll scribble over one of my sketches and change a detail and it will secretly get passed off to the pattern maker and is missing something that I was excited about.
James: …Or [it'll be] much better.
Mark: Or much better. And we try to have fun with it because it’s a ruthless business. The highs are high and it’s so gratifying from a creative point of view, but it’s fashion. If you sit back for one second you get mowed over. And it’s fun to have a partner to go through all that with. So far, so good.