Jul. 11 2019
Christine Currence is the President and Owner of Badgley Mischka. Before purchasing the Badgley Mischka brand with her partners, including Mark Badgley and James Mischka, from Iconix Brand Group in 2016, Christine held the role of President of MJCLK LLC—during which the company’s royalty revenue doubled and the brand’s product assortment expanded dramatically. Before becoming an executive, Christine worked as Director of Licensing at Nicole Miller, where she grew its licensees from 11 to 30. We asked this boss to take us through the path to her coveted career, combining fashion and business—she shares her road to CEO below.
What was your first job out of college? How did you get it?
My school in Oregon required a senior internship, which was treated as a credited class, in order to graduate, thus, I began reaching out to any and all family/friends for a connection in the New York fashion world. Turns out, a member of my stepfather’s church was a renowned perfume bottle designer. He had worked with many of the fashion houses up and down 7th Avenue and thankfully agreed to meet with me. We had one meeting in his Upper East Side office, in which he told me that my perfume was way too overpowering and it made him sneeze (note to self: never wear perfume to an interview ever again). Leaving that room, I thought I had completely blown it, but I guess I must have won him over at some point with my “passion for fashion” because he landed me a design internship with Nicole Miller. When my three-month internship was winding down and I had completed my school thesis on all that I had learned, I decided to print a few extra copies. I gave one to Nicole, and one to Bud Konheim, who was the CEO. The next day, Bud pulled me into his office and offered me my first real job as an Assistant Designer.
What was your college major? Did you feel like your major was necessary for the field you wanted to work in?
Like so many other young naive students, I associated “fashion” with design and merchandising. At that point in time, I did not understand the business of fashion, so I went to school for Apparel Design and entered the workforce as a designer. It quickly became apparent to me (and my employer) that I was far better suited to weigh in on the business at hand, thus I was thrown into the world of licensing. My design background and understanding of a brand’s aesthetic proved to be quite valuable to the various companies that licensed the designer’s brand names, across dozens of product categories.
How did you land your current job? What were the steps you took?
Even though I was able to somehow climb this colossal ladder over many years, I still feel as though I got quite lucky. In 2006, I was hired by Iconix Brand Group to run their newest acquisition, Badgley Mischka. Already being a big fan of the brand, and unbeknownst to them, having admired their physical presence over the years when we would sometimes share an elevator because our offices were in the same 7th Avenue building; I was extremely honored to finally be meeting (and working with) the famous design duo Mark Badgley & James Mischka. Fortunately, we hit it off right away, probably in part because I had a fashion background, which was quite unique when compared to other Brand Managers or Licensing personnel they had previously worked with.
I worked tirelessly for Iconix and Mark & James in acquiring new license partners and working with the current licensees to ensure we never deviated from the brand’s design DNA across multiple product categories, however, the relationship with the then licensed apparel company could not be mended. Both parties agreed to go their separate directions, causing a major lightbulb to go on in my head. What if I formed a company, with strategic partners, to design, sell, manufacture, distribute, and market Badgley Mischka apparel globally? So, over 10 years ago, MJCLK LLC was formed to acquire the Badgley Mischka apparel license from the IP owner and licensor, Iconix Brand Group.
From that day forward, especially with the namesake designers as partners, we knew we had to one day acquire (not just license) the brand and put it back in the hands of the original founders. This process proved to be quite lengthy, lasting several years, because Iconix had never sold a brand and was also navigating an SEC investigation and internal management changes. Nevertheless, we worked tirelessly with investment bankers to put together tailored and fiscally sound investment packages for a variety of curated audiences. Even though my partners and I had run this successful apparel business for the past 10 years and clearly understood the ethos of the brand overall, the scrutiny, and difficulty, to raise money seemed insurmountable at times. I could not be prouder to report that in 2016, we finally accomplished our goal to acquire the global Badgley Mischka trademarks (aka IP) and all its licensing revenue. From that day forward, I have had my dream job… running a global, timeless, and prestigious fashion house with the most amazing partners anyone could dream of.
What was the best/worst piece of advice you ever received?
“Remember that woman that gave up? Neither does anyone else.” – Unknown
Never quit. I used to jokingly call my mom pushy or a broken record, however looking back, it was complete passion. She never quit when something was important to her, despite the thousands of hurdles thrown in her path, thus I strive daily to live up to these same standards.
Is there any part of your role that our readers would be surprised to know?
No divas allowed. Fashion does not have to be mean, cutthroat, or have a high turnover. So many people in the company have been with us since our formation in 2008 because we have a family attitude throughout the office. Everyone pitches in… everyone can pack a trunk, ship a box, or answer a phone if necessary, including me.