The soundtracks! The neon! The innovation! A look at some of the best moments in the beginning of Betsey Johnson's career: her first fashion shows.
Curated by Whitney Weiss
Total Runtime: 0:30:01
Betsey Johnson (born August 10, 1942) is an American fashion designer best known for her feminine and whimsical designs. Many of her designs are considered "over the top" and embellished. She also is known for doing a cartwheel at the end of her fashion shows. Johnson is the second of three children born to Lena and John Johnson. She has an older sister, Sally, and a younger brother, Robert. Johnson took many danceclasses, which inspired her love of costumes. Following her graduation from high school, Johnson studied at the Pratt Institute and then later graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Syracuse University where she was a member of the Alpha Xi Delta women's fraternity. After graduation, she spent a summer as an intern at Mademoiselle magazine.
Johnson's fashion career started after she entered and won the Mademoiselle Guest Editor Contest. Within a year, she was the in-house designer for Manhattanboutique Paraphernalia. Johnson became part of both the youthquake fashion movement and Andy Warhol's underground scene, along with The Velvet Underground,Edie Sedgwick and Lou Reed. In 1969, she opened a boutique called Betsey Bunky Nini on New York's Upper East Side. Edie Sedgwick was her house model and Johnson designed the clothing Sedgwick wore on her last film, Ciao! Manhattan.. In the 1970s, Johnson took control of the fashion label "Alley Cat" which was popular with the rock 'n roll musicians of the day. In her first year, her debut collection for Alley Cat reportedly sold $5 million in volume. In 1972 she won the Coty Award.In 1978, Johnson started her own fashion line. In contrast, her second collection did not sell well, leaving her with 3,000 pieces of spring clothing and insufficient funds to stage a 1981 fashion show to sell them and Johnson opened a retail store in the SoHo area of New York City. As of 2011, she has more than 65 stores worldwide.
In 2002, Johnson was inducted into the Fashion Walk of Fame. Her bronze plaque held one of her original sketches. In 2003, she expanded her line for 2004 to include handbags, accessories, hats, and scarves. In 2008, Johnson was a contributor to Carrie Borzillo-Vrenna's book Cherry Bomb. The National Arts Club awarded Johnson the 2009 Medal of Honor for Lifetime Achievement in Fashion. She once described her style as a formula: "Take a leotard and add a skirt."
On April 26, 2012, Betsey Johnson, LLC filed voluntarily for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.In 1968, Johnson married Velvet Underground's John Cale but divorced him less than a year later. Following her split from Cale, she relocated to San Francisco, California and New York City. In 1975, Johnson gave birth to her only child, a daughter named Lulu. Lulu was born immediately after Johnson did a children's wear collection show. In 2006, Johnson's granddaughter, Layla, was born to Lulu.In 2002, Johnson was diagnosed with breast cancer. Ultimately, she underwent a lumpectomy and radiation treatment.