Johnson at the 2007 Red Dress Collection show for The Heart Truth campaign
10 August 1942 |
Wethersfield, Connecticut, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||John Cale (1968–1969)|
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 dance classes, 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 sorority. 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 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 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. 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. 
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.
On April 26, 2012, Betsey Johnson, LLC filed voluntarily for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
On September 12, 2012, Betsey Johnson celebrated 40 years of her brand with a retrospective fashion show with Cyndi Lauper performing. 
As of May 2013 Betsey Johnson and her daughter Lulu Johnson have a reality TV show that airs on the Style Network. 
- Anne-Marie Schiro (1999-05-18). "Betsey Johnson - Honor for a Life of Celebrating Youth". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-09.
- "Betsey Johnson Still Loves Cheerleaders and the Prom". New York Magazine,,. February 14, 2012.
- Michele Ingrassia (1981-08-20). "Her reputation for bizarre pays off". Milwaukee Journal. Retrieved 2010-03-09.
- "Summer 2006 Quill – Distinguished Designer". Alpha Xi Delta. 2006. Retrieved 2007-09-19.[dead link]
- Marian Christy (1971-09-15). "Betsey Johnson Hits the Top With Funny Off-Beat Designs". Reading Eagle. Retrieved 2010-03-09.
- Phoebe Hoban (1998-06-07). "For Betsey Johnson, the Voice of Maturity Is Her Daughter's". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-09.
- LA WEEKLY July 30, 2008
- "Who says coolness can't be taught?". 2008-05-07. Retrieved 2008-08-13.
- Ramirez, Elva (2009-10-14). "Betsey Johnson Receives Award, Pledges Allegiance to Fashion "Through Hell and High Water"". The Wall Street Journal.
- Elliott, Hannah (2012-04-26). Forbes http://www.forbes.com/sites/hannahelliott/2012/04/26/betsey-johnson-declares-bankruptcy/
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- Mariana Leung. "Betsey Johnson and Cyndi Lauper – NY Fashion Week". Ms. Fabulous. Retrieved 2012-09-1309.
- Sheila Mcclear. "Betsey Johnson and Lulu Johnson do serious stylin’ for new reality show 'XOX Betsey'". NYDaily News. Retrieved 2013-07-10.
- Betsey Johnson
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