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If the Shoe Fits, Wear It: Candie’s in Surprise Deal To Buy Badgley Mischka

Mark Badgley and James Mischka, the purveyors of expensive evening gowns, have found a business partner right under their feet in Candie’s Inc.

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Badgley and Mischka, who will be compensated with a revenue participation in the business going forward, said they were interested in Candie’s for its marketing and licensing expertise.

“The potential of our company has never been realized because we were never focused on that,” Mischka said.

“Fashion each season comes like a bullet,” added Badgley. “We never had the time, but this is really right for us.”

The designers and Escada executives entertained a number of potential offers over the past year, but a deal did not appear likely unless the company was restructured as a licensing business. In July, when Escada announced it would not provide the funding for a spring collection, the designers began to shut down their operations, including their showroom at 525 Seventh Avenue here, and letting about 40 employees go. They will begin to restaff this week and are looking for new real estate in the West Chelsea neighborhood, they said.

“We were able to sit back and think about what we really want to do,” Mischka said. “We want to build a business.”

The designers plan to put together a fall collection, but it is not clear whether they will be able to stage a formal show during the next New York Fashion Week in February. That will depend on whether they can find a partner that can make a viable business out of the high-end collection, which had sales of about $40 million at retail before it was shut down. Cole projected that number could double within a year.

“We are talking to people who are very interested and we are going to find a strategic partner,” Cole said. “We will find a way to do this because the collection is very important to our marketing approach. Mark and James have this amazing talent, and now is the time to expand the brand and bring it to new heights. One of the advantages we have is Mark and James themselves.”

The designers got together with Candie’s through UCC Capital Corp., which has been involved in an increasing number of intriguing designer deals. UCC orchestrated the sale of Bill Blass Ltd. through the bond market in 1999 and also provided asset-backed financing to Candie’s in 2002. Last month, UCC facilitated the introduction of Oscar de la Renta Ltd. to the Connecticut-based Webster Bank to expand the company’s credit facility with more aggressive terms than those offered by its previous lender, reportedly Fleet Bank. Robert D’Loren, president and ceo of UCC Capital Corp., is also a member of Candie’s board.
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