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Mark Badgley and James Mischka weren’t about to do the typical backstage reception after their show Saturday night — instead, they wanted the kisses and congratulations at the end of the runway for all to see.
And why not? This spring collection celebrating the 30th anniversary of their label was designed more as a party, with small, pastel-covered tables flanking the runway, each ready with buckets of champagne and filled glasses as guests entered. The setup meant that fewer people could fit into the show space at New York’s Spring Studios, but that was also by design. “We usually have more than 750 people, but this time it was only 250, so everyone here — colleagues, retailers, clients, press people — means a lot to us,” explained Badgley.
For Spring 2019, the duo produced just 30 looks for 30 years, but each was meticulously curated, employing custom fabrications from Italy as well as lush floral embroideries that blossomed on waistlines and shoulders, all woven through a fantastical, Alice in Wonderland theme. “The past 30 years have been distilled into an essence of beading, crystals and fabulous lightweight fabrics, all super luxurious and super elegant at the same time,” Mischka said.
“James and I love flowers; they’re a constant source of inspiration,” Badgley added as he referenced the first look on the runway, a tailored silk suit in a floral print that was placed with precise symmetry on the jacket. “Some of those colored prints developed out of Italy have as many as 50 colors in them. There’s a thread of glamour in everything we do; even the denim has a gold wash. But our favorites, as always, are the lavish couture evening gowns.”
Many of those gowns, such as a strapless green garden-print ballgown with a wide pink ribbon at the waist or the sleeveless white gown embellished with ruffles and lavender flowers, were paired with junior versions, a new category for the label, creating mommy-and-me moments the audience loved. “Those little-girl dresses were the most fun for us this season; I don’t know why we haven’t done them before,” Mischka said.
The pair also were celebrating the release of their first fragrance, a floral based on their love of magnolias. That idea was highlighted by the flowering trees that ran down the center of the runway, each of them adorned with oversized paper blossoms, which matched a fun minidress embellished all over with three-dimensional silk flowers. Other pieces, such as a sleek silver-sequined gown accented with a pink velvet ribbon or a lilac crepe gown with a single matching crepe flower on the shoulder, likely will soon find their way onto red carpets. (The designers have dressed Taylor Swift, Teri Hatcher, Madonna, Rihanna and more over the years.)
At the end of the show, the duo remained on the runway to greet a crush of well-wishers, including Alec and Hilaria Baldwin and Caitlyn Jenner with Sophia Hutchins. The confetti that rained down during those photo opps added to the festive air — and if anyone deserves to celebrate in the fashion industry, it’s a design team that’s commemorating three decades of their label while also exploring new ways to build on that success.
“It was very emotional,” Badgley said of his finale walk with Mischka, who is not only his creative partner, but also his husband. “Let’s face it, fashion shows don’t always strive to create a warm and fuzzy feeling, but that’s what we wanted for tonight.”
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