Betsey Johnson: Whimsical Beauty
Betsey Johnson is one of the great American fashion designers. Her designs have been known as fanciful and whimsical, and have gained her a large number of admirers. The bright playfulness of her style is demonstrated by the way she ends her fashion shows – by performing a cartwheel.
A Passion for Beauty
Betsey Johnson was born in 1942 in Wethersfield, Connecticut, as the second of three children, between her older sister, Sally, and her younger brother, Robert. Even when very young, Betsey was interested in dance and dance costumes, and took a number of dance classes.
She graduated from high school and went on to study at the Pratt Institute, then moved on to Syracuse University, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa. She was also a member of the respected and prestigious Alpha Xi Delta sorority. Upon graduation, she participated in a summer internship at Mademoiselle magazine.
Her first great fashion success was becoming the winner of the Guest Editor Contest at her former place of employment, Mademoiselle. Soon, she was heading up design at the Paraphernalia Boutique, which had already turned out some much praised work from London designers. Betsey Johnson’s floral designs, which specifically appealed to the hippie movement, as well as her penchant for very feminine silhouettes, made her famous. By 1969, she was able to open a boutique all on her own, calling it Betsey Bunki Nini.
The Alley Cat label became a Betsey Johnson project in the 1970s, which was already a big name in the music world. Her star was truly on the rise during this decade. She became the youngest designer to win the Coty Award in 1972, and in 1978, she formed a partnership with Chantal Bacon to create the Betsey Johnson label in its modern form.
Her stores spread from coast to coast over the ensuing years, with stores soon to appear in Canada, along with a Tokyo store in 2006. Betsey Johnson creations can now be found worldwide, across three continents.
Pop Art Perfume
Betsey Johnson entered the fragrance business in 2006, the same year of her Tokyo debut. It was named “Betsey Johnson”, after herself, and meant to capture the whimsical and fun essence of her clothing lines. The box was certainly dressed up – leopard spots and roses predominate, while the bottle itself had a quite unusual top, in the eye-popping Betsey Johnson style.
The scent itself is also true Betsey, both floral and fruity, with just a touch of exoticism. It is a little flirty, a little glamorous, a little seductive, a little bold – perfectly Betsey. It opens with the fruity notes of pear, black currant, tangerine, and black currant. The fruity and floral notes are tied together by the middle with lily of the valley, freesia, and red apple. The sweetly feminine base holds essences of sandalwood, praline, cedar, musk, and amber.
The Betsey Johnson Spark
Everything that Betsey Johnson creates, whether fragrance or fashion, has that vivacious touch that is uniquely hers. She has a distinct personality that shows in the work that has made her famous. Today, she works with Lulu, her daughter, to make even more innovative creations.
Always looking for something new and exciting, she and her family moved to Mexico in 2003, where she bought a small hotel, and remade it in her own image. She dubbed it Betseyville and opened it for public rental. She wanted it to be a place where interesting people could stay for a time, and even returns there to stay now and then herself, in order to receive some inspiration of her own.
While certainly a good life, Betsey Johnson’s life has not always been easy, but she always makes the best of what she has. As a breast cancer survivor, she’s been at the forefront of the fight to prevent and cure that disorder, and has been recognized several times for her efforts to help others who suffer from the often fatal disease.
The 21st century did not find Betsey Johnson irrelevant and lost. Instead, it was only the beginning of entirely new opportunities. She began to design undergarments and shoes, while still continuing to make the clothing she’s made for decades. Her boutiques sell her creations, and everything that goes with them, from purses to jewelry, to watches to glasses, to swimsuits, and, of course, fragrances, both her own and those created by others.
As with many other fashion designers, there are few things Betsey Johnson loves more than seeing her creations come to life on the body of a stranger. The spark within her that has brightened her own life can be brought to others, enhancing their beauty, and making the whole world a more beautiful place, all due to the creativity of one remarkable woman.