Badgley and Mischka: For (Glamorous) Women Only
Personally, I’m fashion illiterate. But Movieline magazine stayed current on fashion trends. In the April 1997 issue of the magazine, Diane Clehane asked Mark Badgley and James Mischka to dish on which actresses were hot and who needed a make-over.
When Teri Hatcher arrived at the 1995 Emmys in a hyper-feminine full-length silver evening dress that raised her vavoom factor tenfold, everyone from Melrose Avenue to Seventh Avenue was dying to know which designer was responsible for the look. When she explained the eye-popping creation was from the maverick dressmakers Mark Badgley and James Mischka, many were hearing the designers” names for the first time. Six months later, at the 1996 Academy Awards, Winona Ryder sashayed in front of the paparazzi in a camera-catching beige beaded gown that looked like it had been rolled in sugar. The designer? Badgley Mischka (as the duo is known) again. By this time the cognoscenti were familiar with the designers whose Golden Age-style frocks were showing up on Jamie Lee Curtis. Ashley Judd, Sandra Bullock, Whitney Houston and Cameron Diaz. At this year’s Golden Globes, their dresses were chosen by Julia Ormond, Demi Moore, Teri Hatcher and Sherry Lansing.
Badgley and Mischka. both now 36, met while studying at Parsons School of Design in New York City. They became involved romantically, but went their separate ways professionally until 1987, when they started their own company. Despite a major financial hand from fashion powerhouse Escada in 1992, they eschewed the big-time sportswear business, grew slowly and continued to knock out intricate, elegant dresses. Movie stars now willingly do PR for them. Badgley Mischka’s popularity in Hollywood is in part due to their fascination with Hollywood. They look to the movies for inspiration, particularly films from eras when a girl wouldn’t think of going out in public without her diamonds.
DIANE CLEHANE: At your spring show you played music and dialogue from David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. That was different.
MARK BADGLEY: We wanted some sort of cinematic reference to the music. We thought Blue Velvet was fun and a bit edgy
JAMES MISCHKA: When you hear the line “Are you the one that found the ear?” there’s no mistaking what movie it’s from.
DC: What other movies inspire you?
MB:We’re certainly old movie buffs. The most wonderful thing about it is that the clothes women were wearing back then look right again right now.
DC: What are your movie staples?
MB: There are two staples, but because they’re so popular, they’re almost a cliche now: Sunset Blvd. and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
JM: And The Women–the original. About a year ago got a combination of old and new movies–things like The Hunger; Now, Voyager; Vertigo; Eyes of Laura Mars and just watched one after the other.
DC: Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie in The Hunger is an interesting choice.
MB: That film was the height of the Yves St. Laurent days, when he was the king of fashion. It looks good again. The clothes are classic, but sexy. Great hats and all that kind of stuff.
JM: I loved that scene when they’re wearing sunglasses in the nightclub.
DC: What’s your fascination with these dark, violent films?
MB: We like the contrast. When it’s all pretty, pretty, pretty, it’s boring.
JM: We don’t really like sweet…
MB: We like a very dark personality in this kind of clothes. We love when a woman almost dresses like a man by day and at night she’s extravagant, feminine and sexy.
DC: Which actress today pulls off both looks equally well?
MB: Gwyneth Paltrow would be magic in our dresses–my God, she’s such a mannequin, she’s incredible.
JM: Then you put her in one of those sharp, sinister-looking suits and she looks gorgeous. A dark personality in one of those suits is just too much.
DC: Among the actresses you’re already working with, who are your favorites?
MB: We probably dress around 50 women we really like. And then we have our special five: Sharon, Winona, Teri, Cameron and Ashley.
DC: I know you have longstanding relationships with Winona, Teri and Ashley. When did you start working with Sharon?
MB: A stylist was doing a story with her…
JM: Actually it was for Movieline. The stylist brought some of our things for her to see. Sharon’s assistant called our office to see if she could meet with us.
MB: When we were in Beverly Hills last summer, she invited us to her home. We brought 13 garment bags filled with clothes and we were there until nine o’clock at night. [Laughs] It was probably the most fun we’ve ever had. She has such knowledge of clothes, styling and period dressing.
JM: She’ll look at a dress and go, “Short nails.”
MB: That evening was the closest thing to some costume designer being invited to Joan Crawford’s house in the ’40s.
DC: The other actresses you mentioned are some of the best-dressed women in Hollywood. How would you describe each one’s personal style? Let’s start with Teri Hatcher.
MB: She seems like this lovely little television star, but she’s really very chic and wears clothes very, very well. You can’t underestimate that woman.
JM: The body of death. She’s skinny but she has a great figure. She looks great in our clothes.
DC: Ashley Judd?
MB: Yeah, but playful. I don’t think she’s set on one look. This occasion she’s into a little bodice with a huge full skirt, the next she’s feeling sexy and wants something slinky. And then the next time she wants a tuxedo.
DC: Cameron Diaz?
MB: I think she’s the most forward of all of them in terms of clothes. She dresses like a model. She’s very hip.
JM: Winona is in the same category as Sharon. Seeing her on the cover of Vogue in one of our dresses was a big deal for us, a career highlight.
DC: If you published a 10 Best Dressed List who would you put on it?
MB & JM: Winona Ryder, Sharon Stone, Naomi Campbell, Teri Hatcher, Nadja Auermann, Cari Modine [Matthew’s wife], Madonna, Barbara Walters, Nicole Kidman and Kristin Scott Thomas.
DC: What are the most common fashion mistakes actresses in their twenties make?
JM: I think it’s important for a woman in her twenties not to dress older than she is.
MB: We hate it when they don’t really dress, or it gets so pared down that they wind up with nothing and it’s boring. But they shouldn’t too hard or be too stylized-it ages them.
DC: Can actresses in their teens carry off a truly glamorous look without looking like they’re wearing a costume?
MB: I think there’s something very charming about putting a really young girl in a diaphanous beaded slip dress that’s very ’20s. I think that’s the most amazing look if she can carry it off before her body is even totally developed. She has to be sophisticated, though. We had Liv Tyler in one of our shows when she was very young and still a model, and she was great.
DC: Is there a particular decade of Hollywood you find particularly inspirational?
MB: Our clothes touch on the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s, ’50s and ’60s.
DC: What was the best wardrobe ever created for a film?
JM: All the Givenchy dresses in Breakfast at Tiffany’s were incredible.
MB: Audrey Hepburn’s little black dress after she was having trouble finding her shoes was perfect. In contemporary movies, I thought the little off-the-shoulder cocktail dress Julia Robert wore in Pretty Woman was amazing.
DC: What would you do with Audrey if she were 20 today?
JM: We would keep her in vintage Givenchy because it doesn’t get any better than her in those clothes.
DC: What’s been the worst era for clothes in film?
JM: The worst for us is all those ’80s movies, except for The Hunger. We just can’t get with that “Dynasty” look: the huge shoulders, the excess of jewelry. You look back at that and think, What in the world happened?
DC: What movie has the best evening clothes?
JM: The Women. Absolutely.
MB: I think there are a few movies. White Mischief is one that always comes to mind. When Greta Scacchi dresses up in those dinner clothes to go out to that nightclub, that was high style at its most chic.
JM: That whole atmosphere of having just nothing to do except get dressed up is so fascinating and decadent. Also Dance With a Stranger, when Miranda Richardson threw on those tarty black cocktail dresses every night. Also among the best is Butterfield 8. To show up at three nightclubs every night and get paid to model clothes is just such a fun idea.
DC: You just introduced your first bridal collection. If Gwyneth Paltrow asked you to design her dress what would you come up with?
JM: If Calvin Klein doesn’t dress her, we would love to put her in a glass beaded chiffon fishtail gown.
DC: Have your clothes ever appeared in any films?
JM: Kyra Sedgwick is going to wear an iridescent evening suit of ours in Critical Care.
DC: What film would you most like to design the wardrobe for?
MB & JM [together]: The Women.
JM: We’re dying for that. I love all the girls who are going to be in the movie. Marisa Tomei is going to play Chrystal Allen, the Joan Crawford part, which would be the plum one to dress.
DC: If you could be any actor from a previous Hollywood era, who would it be?
MB: Gregory Peck.
JM: Montgomery Clift.
DC: What about now?
MB: Jeremy Irons.
JM: Ralph Fiennes.
DC: What’s the hardest thing about working with celebrities?
MB: No matter how sure you are about their deciding on a dress, until they step out onstage you still have no idea if they’re wearing your outfit. We have bent over backwards, flown people back and forth, had couriers take dresses to India to do the beading, and then they don’t wear it. That’s heartbreaking.
DC: What’s your favorite period costume movie?
JM: Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence.
DC: If Joan Crawford were alive today and going to the Oscar ceremony, what would you put her in?
JM: A drop-dead black tuxedo.
DC: Sharon Stone became the first lady of the U.S. how would you dress her?
JM: Only in incredibly glamorous clothes. She could add style to the White House a la Jackie Kennedy.
DC: It would seem that looking glamorous but not overdone in Hollywood is something that is especially tricky for older women. What is something fortysomething actresses should never do when dressing for a big night out?
MB: They have to realize they’re not 20, and I think it’s important that they dress for their audience. And they have to dress appropriately for the occasion. To me it’s a bit strange when you see someone who hasn’t done anything for 20 years show up at some big event styled to the nines like it’s their moment. [Grimaces] I just cringe.
DC: I’m sure there are quite a few actresses that you guys could work wonders on. How about Susan Sarandon?
MB: She’s one of the classic actresses you connect fashion with. She goes in the Jessica Lange category–she doesn’t dwell on what she wears. She doesn’t take it all too seriously.
JM: She’s come a long way in her fashion.
DC: Cher’s in much need of a makeover. What would you do for her?
JM: We don’t want to suggest how to change her, but we’d put her in a remake of Now, Voyager.
DC: Has there ever been a time when you were appalled to see what an actress had done to one of your dresses?
MB: Our clothes are very embellished and we don’t see a lot of things going with them. There’ve been a few times when a celebrity accessorized too much and it destroyed the look.
JM: Actually, there was one time when we were horrified. We had a gown, one of our favorite dresses, that had cages of chiffon that hung from the front. We heard a star was going to be presenting an award on MTV in it. Of course we turned on the television that night and there was this woman with a big chiffon bow tied around her head. We realized that she had picked up all the chiffon from the front of the dress and tied it in a bow.
DC: Is there one thing that sends you running when an actress approaches you to dress her?
JM: It’s usually their personality. They’re always nice to us, but it’s how they treat their staff and ours.
DC: Why, except for Unzipped, can’t Hollywood make a good movie about fashion?
JM: Maybe the real world of fashion is too boring for Hollywood. There’s so much work involved, and the glamour is in such controlled doses. They always try to make fashion look glamorous, and in doing so, they camp it up. Look at Ready to Wear.
MB: I think it would be tough for a big movie studio to get their arms around fashion, and if they really did, I don’t know if it would appeal to the masses.
DC: OK, so you’re dressing some of the most glamorous women in Hollywood and you’re waiting for Hollywood to come calling when they remake The Women. Is there anything else you’d love to have happen? How about Sharon Stone accepting an Academy Award in a made-to-order Badgley Mischka gown?
MB: I was going to try and not be so obvious but, oh, we would die and go to heaven if that were to happen.
Diane Clehane interviewed Gianni Versace for the March issue of Movieline.