Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Story of Designer Betsey Johnson

playboy_betsey-johnson_fashion weekImage by mediajorgenyc via Flickr

The Story of Designer Betsey Johnson by Heather Forthofer

Since the 1960s, New York designer, Betsey Johnson has rocked the fashion industry with her creativity and originality. Born in Wethersfield, Connecticut, Betsey spent her childhood in dance classes that influenced her designs and are still evident in her works. After high school, Johnson chose to attend the Pratt Institute, later graduating from Syracuse University as a member of the Alpha Xi Delta sorority.

Her fashion career officially began in 1964 when she won Mademoiselle magazine's "Guest Editor Contest." Only one year later she was working as a top designer for Paraphernalia, a boutique housing the hottest London designers. Her embellishment and unique character quickly grabbed attention as she created form-fitting fabrics, hippie inspired pieces, and sexy silhouettes. She also jumped on board the "Youth Quake" fashion movement, joining Andy Warhol's underground scene and meeting up with John Cale, her now ex-husband, at The Velvet Underground.

In 1969, Betsey decided to branch out into retail, opening a boutique named Betsey Bunki Nini. Alvin Duskin fell immediately in love with her store and offered her a job, which she accepted, traveling to and from New York when needed. In the early 1970's she gained control of a clothing label, "Alley Cat," and through it she began to set a stylistic wave for rock n' roll with bohemian and ethnic styles. As her name began to grow in the fashion industry, fellow designers soon began to take notice of her work, giving her the coveted Coty Award as the youngest designer to ever receive it.

Betsey formed a partnership with Chantal Bacon in 1978 and started the Betsey Johnson Label. Designing for herself gave her the ability to fully express her ideas, allowing her incomparable style and artistic talents to be finally set free. They launched their first store in SoHo, and its success prompted their store to be one of the first located on Melrose Avenue. Now, she is located in more than fifty stores worldwide, ranging from London to Japan.

Recently inducted into the Fashion Walk of Fame and given two lifetime achievement awards, one from the Signature Awards and the other from the Accessories Council, Betsey is known for doing cartwheels at the end of her shows to enliven the audience. She has designed outfits for celebrities like Courtney Love, Cyndi Lauper, Minnie Driver, and Lil' Kim. Second to none, Betsey has survived breast cancer and owns a hotel in Mexico named Betseyville, proudly proclaiming her outlandish behavior and high-spirited attitude.

Heather Forthofer is the owner of Her Black Dress, an online fashion website where you can find a black Betsey Johnson Dress and other black dress styles.

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  1. We visited the Besty Johnson Outlet store in San Marcos, TX yesterday. Some items were originally marked around $400. Is this typical pricing. It seemed like there were some good deals to be had - dresses under $100. Very cute shoes.

  2. "...joining Andy Warhol's underground scene and meeting up with John Cale, her now ex-husband, at The Velvet Underground."

    The Velvet Underground was not a place; it was a band. In the future, you should make sure you know precisely WHAT you are talking about.