Three months after teaming with Titan Industries, Badgley Mischka is moving forward with an overhauled strategy — and footwear is at the center of the brand’s plans. “It’s really a reinvigoration for the company,” said co-founder James Mischka, who started the business with partner Mark Badgley in 1988.
Titan founder and company leader Joe Ouaknine purchased the rights to the brand trademark for $16 million in cash in March. The struggling Iconix Brand Group, which has been shedding assets, formerly owned the rights.
“One of the most exciting things about this collaboration is that Joe is a product person, and at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about,” said Badgley. “We stand for glamour and fantasy; this is the perfect simpatico from the get-go. All of our product categories can be an essence of that. It’s sort of a new start.”
But the executives are certainly not strangers: Titan has been acting as the footwear license for Badgley Mischka for a decade.
“The No. 1 thing that’s important is trust,” said Ouaknine, Titan’s president. “Because we’ve had this 10-year relationship, we know who we are dealing with. The trust factor makes everything go so smoothly. Everybody has high energy and high hopes. We are all looking forward to this new life together.”
While Badgley Mischka will have to grapple with a crowded and competitive retail segment, the execs are determined to make a play for a bigger share of the market.
The execs didn’t waste any time under the new partnership. Men’s shoes, children’s shoes and a more casual line, Jewel, will launch for spring ’17. Plus, the teams plan to roll out 20 footwear and accessories-only stores in key areas over the next three years.
For the kids’ footwear category, a first for the brand, the label partnered with Synclaire Brands as the licensee. Prices will range between $45 and $85, and the styles will launch at retail in January 2017.
“Footwear is our biggest category besides apparel, so we’re expanding our offerings in shoes,” said Badgley. “We’re growing what’s already working. There will be a lot more tightness and cohesiveness because we’re all working closely together. I’m really excited about what’s coming through the pipelines.”
Mischka echoed that the team is already benefiting from a more hands-on approach. “Instead of having separate brand managers, we’re the brand managers now,” he said.
“Now everything is going through them; they’ve never worked so hard,” added Ouaknine.
Additional launches will include cashmere sweaters, bow ties and home products.
“We’re not trying to be everything to everybody. We know what categories are natural and where we can be successful,” said Badgley.
With the athleisure trend happening across the industry, Badgley Mischka is putting its own spin on casual styles for spring ’17. The designers aim for the collection to coincide with the evolution of their customer.
“Personally speaking, we hate dressed-down Fridays,” said Badgley. “Our girls at the office wear little black cocktail dresses at the office. We find that our customers like to dress up, because it’s not the norm — they enjoy it because it’s different. It makes them feel good about themselves.”
However, there is now a market for footwear that transitions from day to night, according to the design duo. That’s the idea behind the Jewel collection for spring ’17, priced between $79 and $99.
“It’s marrying these beautiful ornate treatments we do and working them into our casual shoes. It’s still a special item, but not an evening shoe,” said Badgley. “We will continue with our core business — beautiful, sexy, strappy, glamorous evening shoes — but will add casual silhouettes like an espadrille. They can be worn to the office in the morning and they are embroidered, but they are still whimsical. It’s not just an office shoe.”
Zappos.com has been selling the shoes for several years.
“I have worked with the team for five years and not only are they fantastic partners in our business, but they are passionate and knowledgeable in providing their customers with beautiful pairs of shoes,” said fashion footwear buyer Angela Gonzalez-Matamoros, who added that their customers still appreciate the kind of special occasion shoe that the brand offers.
“The ornaments used and design of their shoes are not only breathtaking, but truly timeless. They make any woman feel like a princess on that special day,” she said.
While Ouaknine has had a number of challenged brands (namely celebrity partnerships that didn’t take off) in his portfolio — which currently houses Zendaya’s line Daya, L.A.M.B and Gx by Gwen Stefani — the executive is confident that Badgley Mischka is on a different playing field.
“Badgley [isn’t] in the same neighborhood of other failing brands,” he said. “We have had hefty increases 10 years in a row. It can only add to our total business. We created a niche with the brand. Don’t fix what’s working.”
The teams also work with apparel licensee MJCLK LLC. While Ouaknine’s background includes primarily footwear, he is confident about the opportunity in that segment too. “Our partners are all talented and will keep up [the momentum],” Ouaknine said.
The fresh product and new lines will act as the focal point for the retail push, too. The brand operates a flagship store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Calif. Specific locations are still in the works; Texas and Southern Florida were mentioned as potential expansion areas.
“Our accessories are an accessible price point. So we can sell to our couture customer and we can sell to our more modern contemporary customer price-point wise,” said Badgley, of the accessories-only stores. “That’s what really works in the retail landscape right now and at the malls where the shops will be.”
Ouaknine added that research was conducted to determine key cities for brand sales. “We sell more shoes in malls in Paramus [N.J.] than at South Coast Plaza [in Southern California],” he said.
To continue the momentum, a redesigned website will also launch later this year. The site will feature new product and advertising campaigns, plus some video footage, all created to reflect the different direction. (Specific details of the campaign are still under wraps.)
“We have plans to redo it and make it bigger and better,” said Mischka. “We are making it more of a luxury experience, but still an all American brand.”
Plus, the brand continues to celebrate new celebrity fans. Recently, the much-buzzed-about Fox news anchor Megyn Kelly wore a Badgley Mischka gown to the Met Gala in New York.
Taylor Swift recently wore one of the label’s cocktail dresses and posted a photo on Instagram. The brand received 300 phone calls in two days and the dress sold out.
“[Celebrity sightings] have a huge impact on business and it brings attention to the brand,” said Badgley.
Overall, the partners are confident in saying that this will be their biggest year yet, in large part due to the ever-expanding categories, retail push and, ultimately, the powerful partnership.
“Shoes and dresses are [strong],” said Ouaknine. “What we have to do now is make sure the other categories follow suit.”
Echoed Badgley, “We just came off our strongest quarter in history in our 30-year business. We really speak the same language now.”