Haute Dogs: Badgley Mischka’s Canine Couture
The fashion icons on designing dog ready-to-wear and dressing the shortest supermodels on the planet — their rescue Dachshunds.
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J. Lo. Meghan Markle. Helen Mirren… Badgley Mischka has been dressing Hollywood for decades, but the fashion house recently debuted a capsule collection of petite floral-printed garb — for dogs. The limited-edition run of embellished harnesses matched their best-selling summer dresses, modeled by influencer Gabi DeMartino and the designers’ own elder-Dachshund Rommel. They sold out in less than 48 hours and 100% of the profits benefitted New York shelter North Shore Animal League. But it was only a preview — phew.
Mark Badgley and James Mischka are devoted dog dads to rescue Dachshunds Rommel, Whiskey, and Wally. So, it was only a matter of time before they began designing pet accessories, right? Those familiar with the Badgley Mischka label are sure to recognize the sylvan prints, sequins, and sparkles to come — all overlaid atop comfortably fitting harnesses (the designers collaborated with K9Wear to tailor their ready-to-wear to dogs). They Zoom’d in from their Tribeca showroom to talk about Rommel’s modeling career, runway bloopers, and the upcoming collection. Spoiler: Bridal!
As a dog and fashion lover, this collection is pretty exciting. What was the inspiration?
Badgley: James and I have always been big dog lovers and have been involved with a lot of dog charities. We’ve also always had a string of rescue dogs ourselves. Often, celebrity brides would ask us to design a matching outfit for their dog — their first child — to walk down the aisle with them, and it’s always been a happy experience. It makes people laugh and puts a smile on their face. And so, we were excited about doing something different like this.
What was the process like, picking designs that would translate well to dog harnesses?
Badgley: The concept of the harness is something that James and I had never been fond of. They’re usually too tight or grip the dog in the wrong place. What we love about K9Wear’s harness is that it fits the dogs so comfortably, then our design is literally veiled over the harness. The quality is exceptional: military-grade materials and buckles. And our dogs can be picky! But they’re short-haired, so when they go out in the harsh New York winters, they have to wear something warm. They were so comfortable in these outfits — that, to us, was revolutionary.
Mischka: We’ve got all these amazing embellished fabrics that coordinate with our couture and ready-to-wear collections so it’s very fun, very whimsical. We’re excited about the upcoming designs — there are practical pieces like rainwear for various climates (we live part time in Florida where it’s hot as hell, but it rains every five minutes in the summer and we, you know, walk our dogs like six times a day). Then some signature prints and holiday novelties that are going to be a little over the top!
I love that your own dogs star in the campaign. Dachshunds are such characters. They’re all rescues, right?
Badgley: I think we’re lifers for dachshunds — at one point we had five! All rescues: Rommel and Whiskey are from Kentucky. Whiskey is a little nervous, understandably — she was from a puppy mill. She’s very tiny and would only have one puppy per litter, so they threw her in a dumpster. And Wally lived in a bathroom above a pizza parlor in New York. He had never been outside so it was quite an adjustment, but now he’s a goofball and troublemaker. He always takes a walk on the wild side — he ate a frog this weekend! It wasn’t poisonous but he got very sick. Rommel and Whiskey are 18 now if you can believe it. His face is all white but he’s still the leader of the pack.
How did Rommel’s modeling debut go?
Badgley: He loves it; he’s a ham. When he was a puppy he would go on TV with us in a handbag. He’s been out of the limelight for a few years but now he’s trying to figure out if he should sign with Wilhelmina or Ford [laughs]. He’s a diva!
Do you bring them to work with you?
Mischka: We used to but now it’s too distracting with triplets. Rommel would lay on the keyboards because they’re warm, and we’d get back from lunch and he’d have sent all these weird emails to people.
Will you show at Fashion Week, and if so, will this collection be a part of it — with Rommel strutting down the runway, naturally?
Mischka: We have to make that decision to show really shortly; everything seems more plausible now. As for this collection, we’d love to but we had a situation backfire once. Years ago, we did a fashion show in Fort Lauderdale with Neiman Marcus and the ASPCA. In the finale, the models walked out in big, beautiful gowns carrying puppies. Of course, the crowd went berserk, clapping and laughing. The puppies got a little nervous and started peeing down the gowns. It was back when pashminas were really popular and each gown had a beaded pashmina to match, so the models were wiping themselves with them. I mean, it was hilarious for the audience but just a disaster! So if we do dogs again, they’ll probably be on leashes…
Have any of your regular clients contacted you asking for matching designs for their dogs?
Badgley: Yeah, we’ve gotten a couple of calls from people who are interested in matching red carpet looks — maybe they’re bringing their dog as date?!
What are you designing for your brand ambassador Gabi DeMartino’s wedding? And talk bridal to me!
Mischka: We’re designing her rehearsal dinner dress and a coordinating outfit for her dog Lily. People really want to incorporate their dogs into their weddings and are willing to step outside the box and indulge a bit. It’s great for photography and a great conversation piece, too.
Badgley: At the end of the day, pets are family and people want to involve them in their ceremonies. We’re designing these beautiful white fabrics, laces, duchess satins, florals — some very beaded, others very Jackie O. And a few little tuxedos for male dogs that are gonna be fun. It’s fun to talk about dogs for a change!
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Samantha Gurrie is The Wildest’s editorial director. She was previously the senior editor at NYLON magazine, co-publisher of Four&Sons, and director at Puerto Rican dog rescue The Sato Project. She lives in L.A. with her husband and rescue Pit Bull mix Midnight.