“I see myself retiring in Aiken, SC,” begins Mark Badgley, partner of fashion’s dynamic duo Badgely Mischka. “While I’ve only been there once I love everything about it and what it stands for.” I must admit I was surprised to learn of Mark’s interest in the Carolinas, particularly since he recently moved to Beverly Hills, California, to be closer to family and his business parent company. I bet you’re wondering even more so should paths between Mark and myself even be crossing?!
For context, I had the pleasure of meeting Mark and his life/business partner James Mischka last spring as they graciously donated a number of stunning ball gowns, hand bags and shoes to a fundraiser that I was volunteering for in Florida to benefit ‘Danny & Ron’s Rescue.’ “We met Ron and Danny through the horses, of course, and have five rescues (Daschunds) ourselves. I admire them so much for they do through the rescue, although it is mindboggling.” Let’s fast forward a few months to my nephew’s wedding in Newport, Connecticut. His fiancées wedding dress was exquisite and designed by none other than ‘Badgely Mischka.’ Those who know me immediately know that I would consider this a serendipitous turn of events, compelling me to learn more about the men behind the brand.
Born in the early 1960s in St. Louis, MO, Mark was the son of a department store executive whose career led his family to Oregon where he discovered his passion for horses. “Horseback riding has always been an excellent stress reducer for me. I had a wonderful first horse, ‘Stonewall,’ who was a ‘field hunter’ type of horse that was also a true saint. There was a good show circuit that I competed on in California where all the horses were similar to him.”
After attending the University of Southern California, Mark followed his heart for fashion and graduated from Parsons School of Design, New York, NY. Mark met future business, and life partner, James Mischka, who was also a student at Parsons. “James’ family has had experience with draft horses and race horses, but he never rode. However, James has always been supportive of me and my riding.” While living in the New York area, Badgley showed regularly at The Hampton Classic for 20 years in addition to the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Wellington, Florida. Individuals including Bobby Ginsburg, Pamela Pope, Michael Zuckerman, Frank Madden and Tom Wright have been instrumental in helping him with his riding success. Horses such as ‘Hunter’s Moon,’ ‘McKinley,’ and ‘Brando’ formed successful partnerships and frequented the winner’s circle in the adult show hunters divisions.
From the fashion side of Mark’s lifestyle, he had the pleasure of working with Donna Karan in the late 1980s. “I enjoy creating evening gown looks that are red carpet ready to bridal gowns, dresses worthy of garden parties and distinctive evening ensembles. Incorporating a bit of fantasy coupled with glam is one of the most fun aspects of my designs.”
Some of most compelling influencers on Mark’s life thus far have been CZ and Cornelia Guest. CZ was an American stage actress, author, columnist, horsewoman, fashion designer, and socialite who achieved a degree of fame as a fashion icon. Her daughter, Cornelia, was the daughter of polo champion Winston Guest, and Cornelia made her debut in the winter of 1981-1982 at the International Debutante Ball at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. “I have always considered my twin sister, O’Hara, as my muse.”
“Notable designers Bill Blass and Oscar de la Renta were effective in steering me in the right direction in my career early on, and I have always been drawn to Geoffrey Beene.” Beene was one of New York's most famous fashion designers, recognized for his artistic and technical skills and for creating simple, comfortable and dressy women's wear.
It’s now been 30 years since the initial launch of a line of women’s evening wear under the label Badgely Mischka, they went on to introduce a bridal line in 1966, footwear in 1999 and opened the store in Beverly Hills, CA, in 2000. Critics agree that no other label has been as plentiful on the red carpet as theirs. Dressing individuals from Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lopez, Halle Berry, Rihanna, Madonna and many more. Mark refers to it as ‘unapologetic glamour.’
The debut of their Spring 2019 collection evoked feelings resembling those more experienced at a party than those during a runway show. The deeply sought after fabrics, embroidery and beading were beautifully adorned on mother and daughter dresses alike.
Now that Mark and James have settled in their new digs in Beverly Hills, the return to horses may be soon again on the horizon. Occasional trips to New York and Wellington to see long-time friends are quite possible, but not to the frequency they were last year. Regarding a permanent residence in Aiken, only time will tell.
Photography courtesy of Badgley Mischka