The pink, pouffy and colorful world of Betsey Johnson is alive and well, thanks to the unstoppable ball of energy of the designer herself, who at 73, and after more than five decades in the fashion industry, is not going anywhere. Johnson also just received the Lifetime Achievement Award from her “club”, as she called it, the CFDA and after her move to Malibu is more excited than ever of what’s to come.
I chatted with the pint-size platinum powerhouse right before her Macy’s Chicago event, where she greeted us in room full of pink roses, champagne and the warmest smile I’ve seen from a designer. What’s not to love!? We talked longevity in fashion, inspirations and how she has managed to ruled the pink-punk world for so long.
FashionFiles: You’ve been in fashion for a long time. What is the secret behind the longevity of your career?
Betsey Johnson: I’ve been in the fashion business 55 years. And I love it, I can’t stop. It’s kind of like I love it, and then there’s a girl out there who loves it too. So I am like ‘Woah’ I am not a weirdo, I am not a black sheep.
The secret is that I stuck to whatever I did. I had a girly thing about me — with the xox and the lips — quite, quite a long time ago. All the pinks and petticoats and everything I liked to wear, I made for my customer. And it kept working. For 35 years on my own and now I am with our 16 licensees through Steve Madden and it’s been great. And everybody wants to do well, wants to do it very Betsey and there’re all these Betsey girls all over that enjoy fun fashion.
Of course, I also stayed in business because did some timeless stuff as well, and stuck to my niche — the girly-girl meets the rock’n’roller, pretty and punk.
FF: What keeps you creative every day?
Life. I do love living. I wish on a star every night. I am very grateful for my family, my grandkids. Annnd couple of weeks ago, a man!! Which is shocking at my age [laughs.] It’s great to be alive.
FF: What do you consider your greatest accomplishments, personally and professionally?
In my personal life it is my daughter Lulu and my two grand-daughters. Professionally, it’s without a doubt the fact that I was able to hang in there for so long. And I am still able to hang in there and compete with other brands. Even Starbucks has those lip kisses on their coffee cups! You know what I mean? I am just so happy to keep dancing.
FF: How do you prepare for your iconic fashion shows?
When it comes to fashion shows, I am interested in doing different things now. I did I big party in LA with the swimming pool last month, for example. I want to mix it up because I am not a fan of the runway fashion show anymore. I think it’s a mega expensive, outdated thing.
FF: How do you feel about the newest changes in the fashion industry, and the see-now-buy-now mentality many designers are adopting?
It’s great. It goes where it goes, you can’t stop it. Plus, being able to stay in business through whatever you want to do, it’s great. And, fashion is always changing. When I started in 1965, fashion was light years different than it is now. And change is always good, because the only constant is change, right?
Shop the fun and flirty Betsey Johnson fashion at Macy’s or pick some of our favorite items below.