Fall 2021 Runway Collection
New York nightlife is on hiatus, but its memory lives on. For Mark Badgley and James Mischka, nights on the town have always been a potent source of inspiration. From their days as students at Parsons to the four decades they’ve spent as Manhattan residents, they’ve maintained their fascination with the restaurants, nightclubs, and people who comprise New York’s café society. They’ve been witness to the ongoing evolution of the scene as the landscape ruled by socialites ceded to celebrities and social media stars before grinding to a COVID-19-driven halt. Fall saw the designers looking back to glory days when the city was a bustling hub of see-and-be-seen eateries and velvet ropes.
Dubbed Return to Wonderful, the collection was as much about nostalgia as finding a path forward. “Our friends inspired us, all those memories of fabulous dinners or spending the night together at our favorite restaurants,” said Mischka via Zoom. “I remember seeing Phoebe Legere performing in her pajamas at One Fifth and hanging out after the Met gala back in the ’90s. Right now we’ve all been craving that kind of optimism, the thrill of going out and having incredible experiences with other people.”
Presented via a video shot on location at the iconic Keens Steakhouse (a venue chosen in tribute to the many shuttered Manhattan restaurants), the collection felt eventful. After pre-fall’s playful stopover in Palm Springs, California, the New York vibes that informed this season added a layer of urbane glamour. Social distancing means 2021’s engagements occur primarily at home, but the Badgley Mischka girl is going places! Her wardrobe of embellished frocks requires more than a Zoom call or FaceTime to be appreciated fully.
The collection focused on lively pieces with statement details: sequined trousers, blouses with voluminous sleeves, and metallic dresses decked out with fringe and paillettes. This lineup proved versatile; the sight of a male model looking dashing in a check-covered trench was a welcome surprise. The nostalgic theme allowed for a deep dive into the Badgley Mischka archives to modernize hits from the past and offer a new verve on vintage going-out looks. The oversized satin bows and polka-dot hose channeled the debutante party girls of the mid ’80s—think Cornelia Guest sandwiched between Andy Warhol and Boy George at Regine’s—while gold-flecked furs worn over glittering slip dresses screamed Chloë Sevigny.
Memories are fun, but the real standouts were the pieces that looked ahead. The emerald and ivory chevron number that served as the grand finale felt destined for the red carpet and an IRL event worthy of its beauty. With the world recovering slowly but surely, Badgley and Mischka hope that by the time the clothes hit stores, there will be a good reason to dress up again. “Eventually, there will be a return to normalcy,” said Badgley. “And we’re excited about what’s to come.”
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