By Rebecca Walton
The equestrian world is well known for its special interest in fashion, but for adult amateur hunter rider Mark Badgley, it is far more than a hobby. Mark is the co-founder of Badgley Mischka and they have been hailed by Vogue as one of the “Top 10 American Designers” and as the darlings of the Hollywood set.
Competing at top horse shows throughout the country and juggling a successful career comes easily to Mark, because he has passion for both parts of his life. “The horse world is a subculture that is impossible to explain,” he noted. “Until you’re really exposed to it, it’s such a funny sport to try to explain how it really works. I think it’s a complete addiction. You have to be so absorbed into it; you can’t really do it half way. I think fashion is the same thing. Fashion is its own little world and you can’t kind of do it. You’re either immersed in it or you’re not. I think that there is a lot of discipline and creativity in both worlds.”
Luckily for Mark, the two worlds also intertwine quite well. “I’ve met so many amazing customers through horses,” he said. “Equestrian apparel finds its way into high fashion every 10 years or so, which always cracks me up. I find that women that ride, they love clothes. They love their riding clothes, and they are interested in quality and beautiful things and ascetics. I’ve met some of the most wonderful muses and customers, and often they have been people from the equestrian community.”
Mark continued, “Our fashions have often had an equestrian influence in the past, whether it’s through the tailoring of a piece or beautiful classic iconic prints in terms of tack and snaffles. In our sportswear collections we’ve done looks that incorporate breeches and that kind of stuff. Women love themselves in that silhouette because it makes them look so long and lean. It’s a flattering look, and a hint of that relates beautifully to a contemporary woman. It’s such a classic look that people can relate to.”
In the past, Mark has been known to make his own show jackets for the hunter ring. He loves the heritage and tradition of the sport and unique escape from the hectic fashion world that riding provides. “Life has gotten so industrial and so fast and furious. I love that things don’t change much in this sport. Time just stands still, and there is a wonderful charm to that. Besides the horses, that is what I love about this sport.”
It was that escape that brought Mark back to the saddle 17 years ago, when his fast-paced business at Badgley Mischka was taking off. “I was working around the clock and was totally stressed out, so I really wanted to do something for myself,” he stated. “I took a lesson on Memorial Day Weekend at the Hamptons, and completely got hooked. After showing in Wellington I dove right back into it.”
The talented rider currently has two horses at Hunter’s Moon Farm, located just 28 miles from New York City on Long Island’s prestigious Gold Coast. His newest mount is Quanto, and he also leases an equitation horse named Hometown Hero.
“Most of my riding life I’ve just been a weekend warrior, but recently my partner and I moved out to Locust Valley and it’s literally two minutes from the barn, so in the summers I can try to sneak in some rides before I go into the office,” he smiled. “I ride with Pamela Polk, who I absolutely adore. Hunter’s Moon Farm is a beautiful facility and it backs up to a 600-acre horse preserve, which is extremely unique for the New York area. We can go out on the trails and it is so much fun. I’ve never been at a facility that had that to offer, so it’s a really nice way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.”
With his home on Long Island near the tranquility of the barn and his office in New York, one of the world’s fashion capitals, Mark has found a unique way to combine two different worlds and make both of them his own.