Betsey Johnson Essay
This versatile, creative "Queen of Funk" gave the world her over-the-top rock and roll fashions. Betsey Johnson, at age sixty, has been rocking the fashion industry with her unique, cutting edge styles for thirty-two years now. Betsey was born in Connecticut and spent her childhood in dance classes. Where she developed a love for movement and costumes, which laid the foundation for Betsey’s creativity and her inspiration to design. In the early 60s Betsey studied at the Pratt Institute and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Syracuse University. She moved to Manhattan when she won Mademoiselle magazine's "Guest Editor and Academic Writer Contest", where she worked as an illustrator of shoes. In just one year she was offered a position as a top in-house designer for Paraphernalia, a hip, Manhattan boutique that at the time housed the hottest young London designers. She continued to expand and took creative control of the Alley Cat label. She freelanced in the mid 70s and designed everything from dancewear to kids clothes, to patters for Butterick. The Betsey Johnson label as its known today came soon after, known for her flirty over-the-top designs she never fails to impress with such creativity.
After a decade of designing for other labels, Betsey decided to make a dramatic change in her life, and in 1978 she formed a partnership with Chantal Bacon and started the Betsey Johnson label. Designing for herself allowed Betsey the creative freedom to be able to follow her own set of rules. That same year, Betsey and Chantal opened their first retail store in the center of Soho. In the early 80’s they were the first to open a store on Melrose, helping it gain recognition as one of the hottest places to shop. Today there are over 41 Betsey Johnson stores worldwide. Betsey Johnson became International in 1998 after opening the extremely successful London store. Betsey Johnson's clothing is also available in better department stores, as well as in over 1000 specialty stores throughout the U.S., Europe, and Japan. A unique Betsey Johnson dress today will just cost $130, being able to afford her fashions is definitely a plus.
Her ability to change with the times while still being true to your vision may be her greatest talent. Betsey has been rocking the fashion industry with her unique designs since the 1960's. As fun and flamboyant as she is, Betsey Johnson has always been the best advertisement for her own designs. With her crazy hair extensions flying and a big smile, she prances around like a rock and roll ballerina in her funky clothes. Making every appearance like a party and every article of clothing original. Her designs have been inspired from vintage looks of the past and high-tech fabrics of the future, clear vinyl with sexy silhouettes, and combat boots with baby-doll dresses. With her sexy silhouettes and hippie inspired flowing fabrics, Betsey’s designs had the whimsical detailing and fabulous fit that became her trademark. Her look never goes unnoticed and with such passion you can see why. "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 lip on the mouth, my clothes wake up and brighten and bring the wearer…drawing attention to her beauty and specialness…her moods and movements…her dreams and fantasies" - Betsey Johnson (Ehien 1).
Betsey Johnson has become the icon of fancy yet fun American fashion and stuck to her own subversively, pretty, wildly chic design formula. What is even more impressive is that
through all these years she is still looking forward, anticipating the next fun fashions of the new millennium. Betsey’s creative mind, always in full gear, is an inspiration for the future; she knows how to make things so exciting. Here is what she said when asked how she thinks fashion is going to change in the future. "I don’t think our clothes are going to go through a massive change until we start going t other atmospheres. And then I think clothing will be designed by scientists-slash-designers, chemist-engineer-scientist. Designers will be collaborating, working for the chemical companies, because I think our clothes won't be the cottons, the wools, and the cashmere that they are now. There will be all kinds of NASA space uniform stuff. Or at least that's where they will start, until we learn how to change the atmosphere to fit our clothing, or vice-versa" (Mistry 201). Betsey has seen many fashions come and go, she totally understands it and feels it in her every single day. She will continue with her strong design quality till the end because of her dedication and shinning love for fashion. With her always-impressive attitude she continues about change in the fashion industry. “…I just hope that somebody remembers to keep it a fun, creative, expressive venue. It should always have a thrill to it. It should always be risky and new and exciting. I hope that when fashion gets computerized in the future, it’s always kind of thrilling, scary, and exciting. I hope it never loses the thrill of it all”(Mistry 202). Betsey can be very inspiring with her words, continuing to always impress.
In 1999 the Council of Fashion Designers of America gave Betsey an award they'd created just for her called the Timeless Talent Award, "it was in honor of her durability in a field known for fickle trends" (Mistry 200). Betsey Johnson has impacted the fashion industry in many ways. Her importance is recognized among everyone. "If Betsey Johnson didn't exist, we would have to invent her, simply to remind ourselves that fashion can be fun. She's the original wild child and set to paint the town pink" (Piken 56). Betsey Johnson’s attitude and success should be an inspiration to all.
Ehien, Katie “Betsey Johnson” The Fashion Page Feb. 2000.
Piken, Mary Brooks. The Fashion Dictionary. New York: funk and wagnalls comp, 1951.
Mistry, Meenal. “Heavens to Betsey.” W magazine Oct. 2002: 196-202