Badgley Mischka Rises to the Occasion

Since entering the footwear business more than a decade ago, Badgley Mischka continues to focus on shoes.

And with the main collection, bridal offering and the contemporary Mark & James line that launched in spring ’11, shoes have become the brand’s second-most-important category behind apparel.

“We’ve done a million trunk shows with our couture collection, and the first question out of every woman’s mouth after she has the dress is, ‘What kind of shoes do you see with this?’” said co-designer Mark Badgley. “Shoes are the accessory women are the most passionate about.”

In its 24 years, Badgley Mischka has introduced multiple product categories, including handbags, swimwear and, most recently, fine jewelry. Footwear has, in particular, taken off since the brand licensed shoes to Titan Industries in 2006 through parent company Iconix Brand Group Inc.

Badgley, along with design partner James Mischka, credits Titan for the brand’s growth in the category. “They certainly broadened our capabilities and horizons,” said Badgley. “They have so many resources, their design team is great and their manufacturing is fantastic.”

The admiration is mutual. “[Badgley and Mischka] have incredible talent and are courteous and always available,” said Joe Ouaknine, president of Titan Industries. “The shoes are also successful because of the evolution of the brand. It does help to have a label of that caliber.”

This spring, Badgley Mischka will add a New York location to its flagship stores already in Palm Beach, Fla.; Beverly Hills, Calif.; and abroad. While the designers were mum on specifics surrounding the opening, they were candid about the changing retail landscape and why launching a contemporary line was the right next move.

After all your success in the evening and bridal markets, why was it important to enter the contemporary arena with the Mark & James brand?
It wasn’t just about an evening stiletto anymore. Those are fun and it’s our core business and what we love to do, but we wanted to do a shoe a woman could wear every day and not have to wait six months after she buys it to wear on that special night. There’s still an element of glamour threaded through all our shoes. We don’t do basic shoes; no one really wants that from Badgley Mischka. [Mark & James] is glamorous, but it’s also shoes you can really throw on and wear day to night.

Have you thought about taking on the world of diffusion lines?
We do a very important project with HSN [called American Glamour Badgley Mischka], and that is certainly price-conscious. It’s our dive into that world. There’s a blurring now that this woman shops at HSN and she shops in our store in Palm Beach. When we started our business, you never would have seen that. There are no stigmas, no rules. In the beginning, it was really all about what tier of store you were in.

What changes have you seen in the retail landscape since you started?
Products are available to so many more people now. You can live in the middle of nowhere and order a Badgley Mischka shoe from Zappos.com and be a fashionista almost anywhere. … We’ve always wanted our [products] to be accessible to more people, and now [they are].

How important is the bridal footwear market now?
It’s a category that [was ignored] by a lot of shoe designers, and we decided to focus on it. It’s been super successful and a very important part of our business. There are certain styles in our evening collection that translate beautifully into white and champagne, and then we design exclusive styles just for bridal.

A lot more brides pay attention to their shoes now. People are realizing you do see the shoes, and now that [those styles] are more available, they’re paying more attention to them. They’re not just going to buy a white dyeable shoe and hope nobody notices. I can’t tell you how many girls come up to me and say, “I bought your shoes for my wedding. I don’t have the dress yet, but I have the shoes.”

Does the power of celebrity continue to affect your brand?
That started for us in 1995 and 1996. It was tremendous how people were paying such attention to what celebrities were wearing. When they started wearing our clothes, people would finally pronounce our names right [on the red carpet]. You think [celebrity obsession] is going to come to a head and then go down or not be as big, but it keeps getting more important.

We work with celebrities of all body types and ages. We dress Carrie Underwood and then Helen Mirren. Taylor Swift wore a Mark & James dress right when we launched. It cast a lot of attention on the brand. That was a case where there was a very direct [correlation] with sell-through. Then you really know it does make a difference.

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