Biography of Betsey Johnson
Known for her celebration of the exuberant, the embellished and the over the top, Betsey has been rocking the fashion industry with her unique and original designs since the 1960’s. Her commitment to remain true to her one-of-a-kind vision has afforded Betsey continued success in an industry known for its fickleness. Her ability to change with the times while keeping her designs pure has not gone unnoticed.
Betsey was born in Connecticut and spent her childhood in dance classes. Her aspirations to be a dancer and her love for costumes laid the foundation for Betsey’s creativity and inspiration, which is still evident in her designs today. In 1964, Betsey entered the New York fashion scene by winning Mademoiselle Magazine’s “Guest Editor Contest.” One year later, she landed the top designer position for Paraphernalia, a clothing boutique that at the time housed the hottest young London designers.
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. She designed the dress that Lisa Loeb wore in the music video for her 1994 hit Stay (I Missed you). 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.
What would soon become known as Betsey’s trademark look began its formulations here: sexy silhouettes, hippie inspired flowing fabrics, whimsical detailing and most importantly, a fabulous fit.
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.”As of 2011, she has more than 65 stores worldwide
Betsey Johnson, both the woman and the label, is constantly moving forward and continues to keep a strong foothold in the fashion industry with no signs of letting up anytime soon. Her love of detail and design is evident in everything she does in life and in business. Her enthusiasm, creativity and boundless talent that have kept her at the forefront of fashion for the past 45 years will keep Betsey going for years to come.