For years, when Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Lopez or Helen Mirren stood on the red carpet wearing Badgley Mischka, many of us knew enough to recognize the signature streamlined, elegant beaded gowns. But before the Museum of Fine Arts' recent SmARTly Dressed fashion show fundraiser, some of us didn't realize Badgley Mischka was in fact two separate designers. And most of us certainly didn't know how engaging and down to earth Mark Badgley and James Mischka, whom fashion critics consider two of the world's top designers, could be.
The two men lingered in the Vinoy Grand Ballroom talking to guests and posing for photos, long after the Dillard's runway show was over.
"At the shopping event (the next day) they were signing shoes for people and really mingling and talking to people," said Rhonda Sanderford, a co-chair of the luncheon and shopping extravaganza at Dillard's at International Plaza where the Stuart Society, a fundraising arm of the MFA, received 10 percent of everything sold. Sanderford's husband, Robin Sanderford, is president of the retailer's East Division and arranged for the New York-based designers to appear at the events at no charge. They have a line exclusive to Dillard's called Belle.
Badgley and Mischka met in the early 1980s at Parsons School of Design in New York, launched their line in 1988 and were married in 2013.
I asked them to name some fashion trends they just don't like.
"We never liked casual Fridays," Badgley said.
"Leggings as outerwear," Mischka added. Yoga pants, yes, but leggings as pants, no.
"I don't like it when women wear tennis shoes with their work clothes then change when they get to the office," Badgley said, after racking his brain for another "fashion don't."
"Well, easy for you to say, you're a man, you can wear flats when you walk to work," I countered.
"And so can a woman. I'd rather see a gorgeous flat than that tennis shoe trick," he pointed out.
I went on to say that being from North Carolina, I still have a hard time in Florida where there are fewer seasonal changes dictating fashion.
"Oh, where are you from in North Carolina?" Badgley asked. One of the top designers in the world showed interest in me. Mischka also joined in the talk of the Tar Heel state and the High Point furniture market where the two were just visiting to tout their home collection.
As for what every woman should have in her closet, they named three things: a classic black dress, pearls and a beautiful handbag.
A steady breeze flapped palm fronds and cooled concertgoers at the annual Pops in the Park concert in Vinoy Park on Saturday. About 2,000 people showed up to the free concert, though many made donations to the Florida Orchestra and brought canned goods for Tampa Bay Harvest, an all-volunteer food recovery organization that serves more than 170 social service charities throughout West Central Florida. The concert's lead sponsors were Ashley HomeStore and JJ and the Z Re/Max Metro.
The beautiful music was conducted by the orchestra's music director Michael Francis, who also offered humorous commentary. Before Aaron Copland's Saturday Night Waltz and Hoe Down, the British director confessed he wasn't sure how to pronounce "lasso" and instructed the crowd on blankets and folding chairs to shout "Yahoo" every time he pointed to them. Next up was Mambo from West Side Story Overture. Since the Rowdies were playing about a mile away, each time the music called for "Mambo" to be bellowed, Francis told the audience to shout "Rowdies." He conducted the song wearing a green and yellow Rowdies jersey.
After the performance of America the Beautiful, Francis invited active members and veterans of each branch of the military to stand and be recognized. Men and women of all ages stood up to great applause during the song associated with their designated branch. Before leading the orchestra in the Star Wars Symphonic Suite, Francis admitted he had grown up with a huge crush on Princess Leia and noted that the day of the concert would have been the 61st birthday of Carrie Fisher.