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Designer Spotlight: Betsey Johnson


Betsey Johnson logo

For the next part in our Designer Spotlight series, I’ve decided showcase a female designer whose fun aesthetic and unique approach to design sets her apart from the rest.

Betsey Johnson has been designing clothes for over 40 years, yet her ability to appeal to her audience has never wavered. This knowledge of her customers and eye for what they want is part of what keeps us buying her clothes year after year. She has made great contributions to the fashion industry and is undeniably a designer worth knowing.

Betsey Johnson at the CFDA awards in 2009
Photo Credit

Her Background

Betsey Johnson was born in Wethersfield, Connecticut in 1942, where she spent most of her youth in dance classes. Betsey did not dream of becoming a fashion designer; instead, she aspired to be a dancer. Eventually, however, her love of art, design, and unique costuming led her in a different direction.

Her Breakthrough

After graduating from Syracuse University, Betsey took the New York fashion world by storm. In 1964, Betsey entered the industry when she landed a guest editor position at Mademoiselle, a “young women’s fashion and lifestyle magazine.” A year later, she became a designer for a clothing boutique called Paraphernalia.

During her early years in NYC, Betsey was heavily involved in the underground scene, along with Andy Warhol and The Velvet Underground. She worked with Edie Sedgwick and even designed the costumes Edie wore in her last film, Ciao! Manhattan.

Her Own Label and Stores

Betsey Johnson Store
Photo Credit

After more than 10 years of designing for other labels, in 1978, Betsey decided to take a more hands-on approach and start a label of her own. Thus, the Betsey Johnson label (yes, the one we’re so familiar with now), was born. Being in full control of her own label allowed her to self express her creative ideas through her perfectly executed designs.

With the creation of her namesake label came a slew of Betsey Johnson retail stores. Her first store, in NYC’s Soho neighborhood, was quickly joined by sister stores in Los Angeles and other US cities. Her stores quickly became popular shopping destinations; customers could not get enough of her unique, whimsical, impeccable fashions.

The Betsey Johnson Label Today

Today there are over 65 Betsey Johnson stores worldwide, in every city from London to Japan. Betsey’s line has also expanded to include many new categories of merchandise, including:

  • Handbags
  • Accessories
  • Lingerie
  • Eyewear
  • Footwear

In addition, Betsey, a breast cancer survivor, is very active in the fight against the disease; she has made countless appearances at different events around the nation to raise awareness and money for the cure. She even became an honorary chairperson for the Fashion Targets Breast Cancer initiative. Aside from her contributions to the fashion world, Betsey has made a difference in countless lives through her charitable efforts against breast cancer.

Betsey’s Major Recognitions & Awards:

  • 1999 CFDA Awards: Timeless Talent Award
  • 2002: Inducted in to the Fashion Walk of Fame
  • 2005: (Signature Awards and NAWBO-NYC) Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2005: (Accessories Council) Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2009: National Club Medal of Honor for Lifetime Achievement in Fashion

What to Expect: Betsey Johnson Spring 2010 Ready-to-Wear

Betsey Johnson Spring Summer 2010 fashion
Photos from

Betsey’s Spring 2010 line, which hit the runway during New York Fashion Week back in September 2009, is full of her trademark whimsical designs, figure-flattering dresses, and fun colors. Nothing less than what you’re used to, Betsey Johnson’s line is still on TOP!  There are lots of color variations and shapes, and the line still has more than enough style to impress even the toughest fashion critics.

Want to learn more?

If you want to know a little more about Betsey Johnson, you should start by checking out her website. (It’s very vibrant, colorful, and complex!) Also, you can learn more about and support her efforts against cancer at the Fashion Targets Breast Cancer website.

Your thoughts?

So what do you think of the legendary Betsey Johnson? Are you a fan of her designs? Did you learn anything new about Betsey from this article? Let us know by leaving a comment!

Posted on on February 5, 2010 / Filed Under: Fashion News / Tags: , , , , ,

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22 Responses to “Designer Spotlight: Betsey Johnson”

  1. 1
    February 5th, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    She is absolutely incredible!! :) Just wish I could afford all of her things…haha

  2. 2
    February 5th, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    I’m a huge fan of Betsey Johnson. Would love to intern for her.

  3. 3
    February 5th, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    Never really liked Betsey’s things..

  4. 4
    February 5th, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    I love Betsey Johnson – her dresses are totally doll like and her shoes are super cool and extravagant!!!

  5. 5
    February 5th, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    she’s my favorite…

  6. 6
    February 5th, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    I had no idea she was 68! She does cartwheels up and down her runways!
    I am in shock. Wow.
    She’s like 12385times cooler now

  7. 7
    February 5th, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    while I commend her achievements and success, i personally do not like her clothes. we have a store in our mall and my sister actually thought it was a costume shop!
    But my style is very low-key, so i can see how other girls might like her aesthetic.
    either way, i hope she continues to have the same unique vision shes been rocking since 1978 :)

  8. 8
    February 5th, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    I LOVE her, I love her designs too as I guess shows by the fact I have a bag, a pair of shoes, a top, an iPod case (oh yes), a watch, some bits of jewelry and day of the week socks (cos i’m just that cool lol) by her.
    j’adore :)

  9. 9
    February 5th, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    Generally her designs just aren’t my style, but I do have a vintage Betsey Johnson pencil skirt in the perfect shade of orange which I love. And I love the fact that she’s quirky and different. :)

  10. 10
    February 5th, 2010 at 10:45 pm

    I cannot tell you how happy I was to see this post, I remember suggesting Betsey Johnston on the last post! She’s definitely a love/hate designer, but I don’t think she even cares at all, she designs what she loves. :) Amber, I love this! Also I had no idea she designed the costumes for Edie. I knew she was friends with Andy, but seriously, awesome trivial fact. Amazingg post, keep them coming for sure!

  11. 11
    February 6th, 2010 at 10:00 am

    This is fabulous! I love her and her achievements are incredible!

  12. 12
    February 6th, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    She is my favorite fun designer! I own so much of her jewelry and a few handbags and shoes, but I am about to take a plunge and buy a beautiful jacket from her new collection. She is amazing and I hope she keeps on designing for years and years to come!

  13. 13
    February 8th, 2010 at 11:19 am

    She is fantastic! Her designs are great and so much fun.

  14. 14
    February 9th, 2010 at 8:51 am

    Just wanted to let you guys know that Betsey saw this – she responded to us on Twitter with the following message:

    @xoBetseyJohnson: @CollegeFashion great write-up – thank you for the designer spotlight!! xox

  15. 15
    February 19th, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    I love Betsey Johnson. She is amazing and has contributed so much. Her jewelry and clothing designs are fun and flirty. Amazing and informative post.

  16. 16
    October 14th, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    OMG I love her !!!! Huge fan! Heavens to Betsey!:)

  17. 17
    June 2nd, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    I absolutely LOVE Betsey Johnson. Especially eversince she’s been releasing new casual clothes in apparel and obviously she upped the class on casual with girlier tops with more frills! I just bought a white corset from her’s and it’s amazing and every other time I wear any of my other Betsey Tops, sweaters, cardigans and dresses or skirts I get LOADS of compliments! I just hope she doesn’t raise the prices because it’s really hard obtaining all of her wondrous items when the awesome items are all around 200-250 each! And I hope Stardoll picks up the brand soon because what is a fashion game without Betsey! Visit my suite people, it’s Blissss

  18. 18
    April 10th, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    my friend said that she sort of looks like niki minajs twin teacher told us to write an occupation i picked her for her designs.

  19. 19
    April 10th, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    i luv her designs but she needs 2 drop sum of da pink bows and fluffyness

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