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Betsey Johnson

Johnson at the 2007 Red Dress Collection show for The Heart Truth campaign
Born 10 August 1942 (1942-08-10) (age 67)
Wethersfield, Connecticut, United States
Nationality Irish American
Occupation Fashion designer
Spouse(s) John Cale (1968) (divorced)
Children Lulu Johnson
Official website

Betsey Johnson (born August 10th, 1942, Wethersfield, Connecticut) is a 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.[1] She took many dance classes as a child and adolescent which inspired her love of costumes. After high school, Johnson studied at the Pratt Institute and then later graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Syracuse University[2] where she was a member of the Alpha Xi Delta sorority.[3] After graduation, she spent a summer as a intern at Mademoiselle magazine.[1]

Johnson's fashion career started when she entered and won the Mademoiselle Guest Editor Contest. Within a year she was the in-house designer for the Manhattan boutique 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 Bunki 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 first collection for Alley Cat reportedly did $5 million in volume.[4] In 1972 she won the Coty Award.

In 1978, Johnson started her own fashion line.[5] While her first collection was a success, her second one bombed, leaving her with 3000 pieces of spring clothing and insufficient funds to stage a fashion show to attempt to seel them. In response, Johnson opened a retail store in SoHo.[2] Today, there are over forty-five of her stores worldwide.

In 2002, Johnson was inducted into the Fashion Walk of Fame. Her bronze plaque held one of her original sketches. Then, in 2003, she expanded her line for 2004 to include handbags, accessories, hats, and scarves.

In 2008, Johnson was one of the contributors to Carrie Borzillo-Vrenna's book Cherry Bomb.[6][7]

The National Arts Club awarded John the 2009 Medal of Honor for Lifetime Achievement in Fashion.[8]

She once described her style as a formula: "Take a leotard and add a skirt."[1]

Personal life

In 1968, she married Velvet Underground's John Cale but divorced him less than a year later.[9] She has a daughter, Lulu, in 1975 who was born immediately after Johnson did a children's wear collection show,[10] and a granddaughter Layla who was born in March 2006.[11] Lulu now works as her mother's creative director.[10]

In 2002, Johnson was diagnosed with breast cancer;[12] she ultimately underwent a lumpectomy and radiation treatment.[13]


  1. ^ a b c Anne-Marie Schiro (1999-05-18). "Betsey Johnson - Honor for a Life of Celebrating Youth". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  2. ^ a b Michele Ingrassia (1981-08-20). "Her reputation for bizarre pays off". Milwaukee Journal.,5935308. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  3. ^ "Summer 2006 Quill - Distinguished Designer". Alpha Xi Delta. 2006. Retrieved 2007-09-19. 
  4. ^ Marian Christy (1971-09-15). "Betsey Johnson Hits the Top With Funny Off-Beat Designs". Reading Eagle.,3076513. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  5. ^ Phoebe Hoban (1998-06-07). "For Betsey Johnson, the Voice of Maturity Is Her Daughter's". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  6. ^ LA WEEKLY July 30, 2008
  7. ^ "WHO SAYS COOLNESS CAN’T BE TAUGHT?". skope 2008-05-07. Retrieved 2008-08-13. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ Simon Prince (2010-02-28). "John Cale: The long reign of the alternative Prince of Wales". The Independent. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  10. ^ a b Anna Gizowska (2004-02-24). "Relative Values: Betsey Johnson and her daughter Lulu". The Times. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  11. ^ "Article: FASHION SCOOPS: EURO STAR...WINDOW WATCHERS...LINE AND VERSE.". WWD. 2006-03-06. Archived from the original on 2006-03-09. Retrieved 2010-03-09. "Perennial fashion wild child Betsey Johnson has become a grandmother. Lulu Johnson gave birth early Tuesday to Layla Johnson Margulies, who weighed in at 6 pounds, 5 ounces. Mother, daughter and grandma are said to be doing fine." 
  12. ^ "FASHION WEEK SHOCKER Designer reveals her breast cancer battle". New York Daily News. 2000-09-15. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  13. ^ Rachel Evans-Biermann (2002-03-13). "Betsey Johnson fashions fight against breast cancer". USA Today. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 

External links

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