Just one glimpse at the works of the Badgley Mischka duo at New York’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, and one cannot help but come away with the sense that it evokes the feeling of the glamour of old Hollywood. Indeed, a visit to their web site finds James Mischka declaring that “Our style harks back to the glamorous Hollywood of the Forties”.
Joining their forces in 1988, Mark Badgley and James Mischka have since been hailed by Vogue as one of the “Top 10 American Designers”. Their simple, sophisticated, and elegant designs continue to capture not only the imagination of the starlets, but also a younger generation of the couture minded.
While the spring collection had found their inspiration from Lartigue’s photographs of the women of the French Riviera of the '20s and '30s, the fall collection likewise remained on the continent. Purportedly, this fall’s collection was the result of significant “Viennese inspiration” in fabrics, color, and luxury. That reference was hardly necessary. Just a cursory glance at this fall’s collection would have readily reminded the casual observer of Klimt’s oeuvre. Klimt, as we all know, was a Viennese symbolist and part of the Vienna secession movement. He is most recognized for The Kiss, and the 1907 gold-flecked portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer, among other works. He and Emilie Flöge, a lifelong companion whom, at the turn of the century, was one of Vienna’s most successful couture designers, created bold and stunning designs for Viennese women who were becoming increasingly liberated. It is no surprise then, that Badgley Mischka’s collection this fall would have such a Viennese influence for; it is suffused with the style and patterns of Klimt and Flöge. Indeed, had the Estee Lauder mogul Ronald Lauder been in attendance, this point would hardly have been lost on him whom, in 2006, had purportedly shelled out a cool $135 million for Adele Bloch-Bauer.
The works were as beautiful and rich as the tortes at the Hotel Sacher. Of particular interest was a stunning one piece in rust with square and round stones on a sheer net bodice with a low-relief angel light brocade gown. Another was a strapless blue and soft pink low-relief luminescent and voluminous brocade gown with a simple princess seamed bodice and a short torso (so it came low on the bust line straight around the body). This was attached to a full skirt with box-pleated panels on the front sides near the side seam, in which a hidden pocket was added a la 18th century costumes, and a four-foot train. Equally stunning was an ensemble made use of silk charmeuse stovepipe slacks, sleeveless blouse with front seed beading detail with a raw silk belt and large stone work embellishment and a simple raw silk sequined front tunic, clean lines with 5/8 sleeves to show the dove gray suede opera length gloves underneath.
One gown that I found to be exquisite was the tiered chiffon gossamer column gown. Its gorgeous seraphic appearance somehow reminded me of Dior’s Junon, and looked as though it was simply floating on the catwalk.
Of course, no detail was lost on the models either. Gold eye-liner on the upper lid was used as special eye makeup. It added the touch of high society and was an elegant look that will likely be seen this fall. Their hair was kept very simple, with long, soft curls, and with a tendril pulled from the front near te temple and secured just above the nap of the neck. This way if you wore a fur collar, cloche, or a one of the gossamer chiffon gowns, you saw the gown and not a wild hairstyle.
Accoutrements included a number of gorgeous fox-fur Zhivago style pillboxes, cloches, and fur stoles, to accentuate this season’s exquisite designs. The cloche in particular was a period specific piece that accompanied a sheath fitting dress using a subtle leopard motif fabric with hints of ornamental sparkle.
Gerbert Frodl, the Director of the Österreichischen Galerie Belvedere, once said that Klimt’s The Kiss, to many, is “comparable to a religious painting… It is almost a religious moment for them.” Indeed, one could say the same of this show. I am looking forward to seeing what their creative genius brings in September.
Cindy Ann Peterson, AICI FLC is a couture designer and an award winning image and style consultant. Named by the Netherlands' Kleur and Stijl as one of the Big 7 color and style consultants for Washington DC. She is also a co-author of "My Style, My Way" and "The Power of Civility." Having lived around the globe, she speaks on a variety of style and civility topics and reflects an international flair with her Peterson Perspective to delight and inspire. Visit her website at www.cindyannpeterson.com.