For nearly 50 years, Betsey Johnson has been a presence in the fashion world. She’s provided the industry with her accessible quirky, whimsical and colorful designs — not to mention, her signature cartwheels and splits.
Now, the designer is giving her fans and followers a deeper look into her life, from when she was young girl growing up in Connecticut to living in a Malibu mobile home (and everything in between), in her new book, “Betsey: A Memoir.”
In the book, Johnson explains the timeline of launching and selling her eponymous brand, which was acquired by Steve Madden in 2010. Johnson still adds her creative input to this day as she works with different licensees and their designers on a range of products, including shoes, jewelry, dresses and more.
Here, FN takes a look at even more surprising facts about Betsey Johnson:
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She was a design freelancer for years.
Before launching her namesake label, Johnson designed different products for multiple clients, including shoes for I. Miller and Nina, hosiery for Capezio, jeans for Adriana Goldschmidt and T- shirts for Michael Millet.
She had a reality TV show with daughter Lulu.
“XOX Betsey Johnson” aired on the Style Network and only lasted one season. Johnson said producers looked to pit she and her daughter against each other.
She did not go to school for fashion design.
After growing up in a small town in Connecticut, going to school in New York City was her dream. So she enrolled at Pratt Institute. Johnson transferred a year later to Syracuse University where she was an art major, head cheerleader and part of a sorority.
She started her career at a fashion magazine.
Johnson entered a famous contest to be a guest editor at NYC-based Mademoiselle magazine during her senior year in college, and she was chosen out of thousands of applicants. She interned in the fabric department before being hired as a full-time employee where she worked as a junior member of the art depatment. The contest’s previous winners included Sylvia Plath, Joan Didion and Candice Bergen.
Her life as a designer started with a sweater.
To supplement the minimal income she received working at Mademoiselle, Johnson made and sold scoop neck sweaters to her colleagues, soon getting the attention of actress Kim Novak.
She won the coveted Coty American Fashion Critics award in 1971.
Johnson won for her work as the designer of junior brand Alley Cat at the age of 29 — the youngest person ever to receive the award.
Bayer Aspirin helped launch her own company.
In order to get a $200,000 loan to launch her namesake brand, Johnson and partner Chantal Bacon had to raise $100,000. So along with money from their families, Johnson starred in an ad for Bayer Aspirin, which paid $10,000 and went towards the start-up investment.
To Buy: Betsey: A Memoir, $24.
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