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story by Seth Friedermann
photos by Charles Beckwith
When I spoke to Mark Badgley and James Mischka moments before their Spring 2012 bridal collection was to flow down the runway yesterday, they spoke of the challenging restrictions that are placed on bridal design. After I saw the collection, I think they might have been having me on, because this is a very unrestricted, even uninhibited collection. The rules of the bridal market don’t inhibit these men, they push them to greatness. Innovation and experimentation abounded from reworking of traditional shapes to different variations on almost every conceivable type of structure and construction.
Many of the 21 elegant and evolutionary looks featured daring and distinctive approaches to bridal gowns. Fascinating fabrics and fabric adornments ranged from puffs of marabou to hundreds of silk petals covering skirts to a stunning column gown in pearl crinkled silk crepe. For veteran designers to display this level and intensity of innovation speaks of their never being satisfied with a “traditional” choice. “There’s a little more fantasy involved with bridal I think. This is the one time in her life that a girl gets to wear a dress like this. We can get away with things that we couldn’t do even in a red carpet gown” said James Mischka.
Badgley Mischka’s unwillingness to settle for the often seen in bridal was most apparent in their treatment of sculptural adornments. Trains, tiers and ruffles all were given a compelling twist. The finest example was a Chantilly lace column gown called “Calista” which had delicate rows of a curled silk organza that began under bust then flowed over each shoulder and joined in a cascade that flowed down the back to the floor. The silk was constructed in such a way that it swayed freely and gently in movement and the overall effect was astonishing.
Another favorite was the incredibly charming “Melia” which was a romantically transfixing honey-colored silk jacquard embroidered with medallions of bronze flowers over it’s entire length and finished with a simple bow in the front.
The designers spoke about what they accomplished this season, saying, “a lot of times our gowns are slinky red carpet-inspired, and we have those as well of course, but we have a couple of gowns that look like they’re moving when they are actual static.”
Bridal construction is the closest that most top American designers currently get to producing what the French call haute couture, and Mark Badgley and James Mischka are two of it’s finest practitioners. Their ability to accomplish effects like the illusion of movement in a still garment and the almost organic nature of their overall craftsmanship is a joy to behold.