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Biography

Betsey Johnson

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
design clothes.

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 for Butterick.

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 lace.

"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."

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Email  Betsey at betseyjohnson@designers.com

 

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