Lilly Pulitzer Celebrates 65th Anniversary With Badgley Mischka Capsule


Lilly Pulitzer is launching a yearlong stretch of collaborations and special events to mark its 65th anniversary.

The tie-ups include a premium collection of special occasion clothes designed in partnership with Badgley Mischka that will drop on March 21. Although Lilly Pulitzer has worked with other companies on co-branded product over the years, including Target and Goop, this marks the first time it has offered a designer-level collection.

Mira Fain, Lilly Pulitzer’s creative director, said the co-branded collection is intentionally small — eight dresses — and focused on the designers’ specialty, evening and cocktail apparel. The collection will feature a print, Grove Garden, along with intricate beadwork, laser-cut floral details, feathers and other special embellishments that move the capsule into collectible territory. The pieces will retail for $485 to $715.

“This is a new category for us,” she said. “We do some silk chiffons, but they’re more casual, poolside, hostess dresses. These are very special pieces.”

Lilly Pulitzer x Badgley Mischka

The Badgley Mischka capsule features bows and beading.

courtesy

“The Lilly team is super-organized and easy to work with,” Mark Badgley said. “They shared some of their upcoming print options — which of course was crucial — and color stories, and we worked together to edit it down to a capsule that we could adapt to represent both brands. The collection has modern classic Lilly Pulitzer colors and prints that we realized with Badgley Mischka extravagance, fabrications and details — crystal beading, floral appliqués and ruffles.”

James Mischka said he hopes the Lilly customer will embrace the collection. “I hope they love the combination of the two brands’ identities, and that the playful elegance comes through.”

The print will also be used on a heritage-inspired anniversary collection that will drop on March 5.

Michelle Kelly, president of Lilly Pulitzer, said the two companies had showrooms in the same New York City building so started talking years ago about doing something together. “It’s a story of travel, friendship and shared interests,” she said. 

“We’ve been aware of, and in love with, Lilly Pulitzer and her product forever,” Badgley said. “All of our years spending winter weekends in Palm Beach and Wellington gave us a Ph.D. in Lilly. [In addition,] our showroom was the floor above the Lilly showroom in New York, and we discovered that we were practically next door neighbors with the head of development for Lilly at our home in Locust Valley — so we always thought we needed to do something together.”

Mischa added: “My high school years were just outside of Princeton, and Lilly was everywhere. The two brands also share a lot of things in common: they both appeal to a super-wide range of customer ages; both brands stand for quality and luxury; we both have never tried to be everything to everybody.”

Lilly Pulitzer x Badgley Mischka

The special occasion dresses will be available next month.

courtesy

Kelly, who has been with Lilly Pulitzer for 19 years, agreed, saying that the company is always “changing and evolving and anniversary years are a great time to celebrate. So much of our business is about looking forward but this allows us to take a quick pause and look back.”

The company has already begun the celebration with other partnerships. They include Lilly x Natalie’s Juice, an orange juice created with a local Florida citrus grower with a custom label that will hit store shelves this spring.

In addition, Kelly said, there’s a special limited-edition Moke car with peony pink rims, steering wheel and gear shift; a logoed tire cover, and a full wrap with a Bimini Top in the brand’s signature “Just Wing It” print. The car retails for $33,975.

The Lilly Pulitzer Moke car.

The Lilly Pulitzer Moke car.

There is also collaboration with First Tee, a youth development organization for golfers, under Lilly Pulitzer’s Print with Purpose program, entitled Golf Til You Drop. A limited-edition collection was created and the company has committed to donate $25,000 to the organization.

Kelly said there will be more special events and collaborations to come as the year progresses.

Since the beginning, the Lilly Pulitzer collection has appealed to women who are generally optimistic about life and not shy about donning colorful patterns. These customers are often multigenerational, Kelly said, noting that grandmothers, mothers and daughters all wear the brand. To appeal to them, Lilly is one of the few brands to still offer matching mother-daughter pieces. “Our kids line is small, only single digits, but it’s still an important part of the business,” Kelly said.

Ditto for men’s, which Kelly said the brand offers “on an intermittent basis.” Last year, Lilly partnered with Southern Tide on a men’s collaboration and Kelly said she is often asked to offer men’s on a more-consistent basis.

Since the end of 2010, Lilly has been owned by Oxford Industries, the Atlanta-based manufacturer whose flagship brand is Tommy Bahama. Oxford also owns Southern Tide, Duckhead and several other labels.

Tom Chubb, chief executive officer of Oxford, said since the brand was purchased, it has helped change the complexion of the corporation as a whole. “When we added Lilly, Tommy Bahama was our major brand — and it still is — but we loved the idea of having happy brands, and there’s no happier, more upbeat brand than Lilly Pulitzer,” he said. “And the fact that it was women’s was a plus.”

Oxford has historically been heavily menswear and while the mix still skews that way, the addition of Lilly, and more recently, Johnny Was, has helped move the needle more toward womenswear.

Chubb, who lived in Palm Beach as a child, said he had been familiar with the Lilly Pulitzer brand his whole life since it was a favorite of his grandmother, mother and other females in his family. So it was always on his radar even during the time it went dormant from 1984 to 1993. Although he made some inquiries to its then-owners in 2004, it wasn’t until 2010 that a deal was struck with the entrepreneurs who had revived the brand.

Chubb said in 2010, the brand had sales of around $70 million and today it is “pushing $350 million.” And 14 years ago, it had a small profit of around $10 million, a number that is now close to $60 million.

Although sales in the third quarter dropped 9.2 percent to $76.3 million and operating income fell 46.7 percent to $6.8 million from the same period the prior year, both Chubb and Kelly attributed that to a shift in the timing of the brand’s popular e-commerce flash sales that are a key driver to the business. “It made the third quarter look softer than it actually was,” Chubb said.

Looking ahead, Oxford is optimistic about the future of the Lilly Pulitzer brand and will be adding to its store fleet. Currently, Lilly operates 62 stores and the company sees that number increasing to between 75 and 80.

Kelly said Lilly’s own stores account for 35 percent of overall sales, digital is 50 percent and wholesale is 15 percent, which she said is a “transformation” from the past. While the wholesale number is small, it’s still significant for the brand, she said, adding that having a “balanced business model” is the goal.



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