Not for the fashion faint of heart, the Betsey Johnson collection has the same whimsical, over-the-top exuberance as its spirited namesake designer – a woman who cartwheels down the end of her fashion show runways. Founded in 1978 with ex-model Chantal Bacon, in conjunction with their first Soho retail store, Johnson’s eponymous label remains true to its original vision, and now boasts a network of stores worldwide. In business nearly 30 years, the designer recently purchased a Mexican hotel and added an infant-to-young girls collection to the company. The “original wild child,” Johnson still owns the majority of her organic homegrown label and continues to pull the strings as dramatically as she wants.
Colorful and capricious, a celebration of exuberance. Froth, embellishment, detail and sexiness describe the clothes, which can range from pink tulle ballerina skirts to silver micro-minis, floral-patterned stretch lace tanks and embroidered lace dresses. It’s a collection that’s embraced by both the prom-going set and long-time fans that are all grown-up.
Betsey Johnson’s love of movement and costumes stems from her days as a dancer. Later, as part of the Warhol scene in the sixties, Johnson put the velvet in the Velvet Underground (she later married band member John Cale) and dressed legendary models Twiggy and Verushka; Edie Sedgwick served as house fit model. Her foray into retail began with the Betsey Bunki Nini boutique in 1969. Now in her 60s, Johnson, seems unstoppable, and the awards continue to pile up: In 1999, the CFDA created the Timeless Talent Award just for her, and in 2002, she was inducted into the Fashion Walk of Fame on New York City’s Seventh Avenue. A survivor of breast cancer, Johnson remains an advocate in fighting the disease, creating one-of-a-kind items for auction and serving as Honorary Chairperson for the Fashion Targets Breast Cancer initiative.