Betsey Johnson was born on August 10, 1942 in Wethersfield,
Connecticut. Growing up, Betsey aspired to be a Broadway dancer.
Her love of dance and the costumes that her mother made for her
childhood performances served as her first inspiration to
In 1964, Betsey entered the New York fashion scene
by winning Mademoiselle magazine's "Guest Editor Contest." One year
later, in 1965, she landed the top designer job for Paraphernalia,
a clothing boutique located in Soho. From sexy silhouettes to hippie,
flowing fashions, all of Betsey's designs had the whimsical detailing
and fabulous fit that became her trademark.
Being a part of this new "youth quake" Betsey found
herself immersed in the unforgettable 1960's New York Warhol scene,
married John Cale of The Velvet Underground, and had Edie Sedgwick
as her fit model.
In 1968, Betsey left Paraphernalia, which closed
its doors soon thereafter. In 1969, a new boutique, Betsey Bunky
Nini opened on Manhattan's Upper East side. The store was born from
Betsey's friendship with Bunky and Nini, which began in Paraphernalia's
design room. Having a retail store in New York and a job offer from
Alvin Duskin in San Francisco made Betsey Johnson bicoastal for
the last years of the 60s.
A new decade offered Betsey a new career opportunity;
creative control for the label Alley Cat. If Paraphernalia defined
the style of the 60's, Alley Cat set the trends for the 70s: rock
and roll clothing with a hippie, ethnic flair. In 1972, Betsey won
the coveted Coty Award, the youngest designer ever to receive the
honor. She also became the youngest designer to create patterns
In 1975, Betsey's daughter Lulu was born. Motherhood
and children inspired Betsey, and soon she was hired to design "Betsey
Johnson's Kids." During the freelance years that followed, Betsey's
design efforts ran the gamut from dancewear at Capezio to shoes
for I Miller, to menswear and maternity clothing.
In 1978, Betsey formed a partnership with Chantal
Bacon and started the Betsey Johnson label as it is known today.
Their first retail store opened in New York's Soho. Today, there
are 21 Betsey Johnson stores across the USA with plans for a London
store in 1998. Betsey Johnson clothing is also available in major
department stores including Barney's, Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom
and Macy's. Worldwide distribution includes Canada, Europe and Japan.
In 1995, Betsey launched a signature perfume, followed
by a line of bath and beauty products. These products are sold exclusively
at Betsey Johnson stores nationwide.
After exploring the extensive archives of her early
designs, Betsey was ready for a new luxury collection. In 1996,
Ultra by Betsey Johnson was born. Drawing upon her vast repertoire
of silhouettes, this new signature collection features modern, sexy
shapes reinterpreted in exquisite fabrics, beading, embroidery and
"Making clothes involves what I like...color, pattern,
shape and movement...I like the everyday process...The people, the
pressure, the surprise of seeing the work come alive walking and
dancing around on strangers. Like red lipstick on the mouth, my
clothes wake up and brighten and bring the wearer to life...drawing
attention to her beauty and specialness...her moods and movements...her
dreams and fantasies."