by Lexie Tiongson

From being a dancer, to graduating in New York, Betsey Johnson's life was as adventurous as a child's fairy tale, almost as if she lived in Wonderland and was the Alice of our time. After high school, Betsey Johnson's career moved up after attending Pratt Institute and graduating from Syracuse University, both of which are in New York. Johnson was a member of Alpha Xi Delta sorority. She went to New York to pursue her ambition of becoming a fashion designer. 1964 is where Betsey Johnson's never-ending fashion career started. Betsey entered the infamous New York fashion scene after winning Mademoiselle Magazine's "Guest Editor Contest." Johnson then moved in-house as the top designer for Paraphernalia, a clothing boutique inspired by London designers, including Mary Quant and Paco Rabanne.



Betsey Johnson wasn't about following the rules in the fashion book, but rather following what she thought was in Betseyville. Here in after, she opened her first boutique in 1969 called Betsey Bunki Nini. At this time, she was following the 1960's Warhol scene, with Edie Sedgwick as one of her house models. Decade by decade, Betsey Johnson's view changed. In the 70s bohemian, rock 'n' roll, and ethnic styles was all she cared about, which also led her to the opportunity of becoming a designer for the well known 70s label, Alley Cat. By the 80s, Betsey Johnson started creating the Betsey Johnson label, which left everything about her to be talked about. From then on, her fashion career grew. The journey she went on in the fashion boat let her find the destination she longed to reach. In 1999, she was presented The Timeless Talent Award at the CFDA Awards and in 2002 inducted into the Fashion Walk of Fame.   


"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 products 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." - Betsey Johnson

Betsey Johnson's style is not just about being eclectic, it's not just about being unique or different, and it's not even about being dramatically correct. Her designs reflect off of the true femininity and outspoken life any woman can have. Known for doing a cartwheel at the end of her fashion shows, Betsey Johnson's personality is illustrated in each dress she designs. Her life is an adventure, and so are her clothes. Love that! That's why there is no better designer to look upon than Betsey Johnson when it comes to representing yourself through clothes that you not only love to wear, but that interprets you. Forty-five years have passed, but more are yet to come  in this true journey that our "Alice" has experienced in her fashion Wonderland, also known as Betseyville.

In the Bay Area, Betsey Johnson's designs are seen through numerous spots. San Franciscans tend to wear the dresses and rock out in her handbags, where San Jose hipsters buy her gladiators to match with some of her jeans and tops. Betsey Johnson currently has a boutique off of Geary Street in San Francisco just a few minutes away from Union Square. She also has another boutique in Valley Fair Shopping Towne in San Jose close to Santana Row. Other Betsey Johnson boutiques in the Bay Area are in Palo Alto, Walnut Creek and another one in the Fillmore District of San Francisco.


Fashion Writer Lexie Tiongson

Images Betsey Johnson

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