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Fashion designer Betsey Johnson developed her edgy, offbeat style during the new wave/punk era of the late 1970s.
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A short biography of fashion designer Betsey Johnson whose London underground influences took the fashion world by storm in 1971.
Fashion designer Betsey Johnson gives her two cents on the appeal of Madonna's early trendsetting look.
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"I thought it was all over until Punk started in London," she recalls. "It felt like a reincarnation of the 60s. It felt the same as when I was 22."
In 1978, revived by the punk movement, Johnson partnered with ex-model Chantal Bacon to start their own company, the Betsey Johnson label. Together they opened Johnson's first retail store in Manhattan's fashionable SoHo neighborhood. "Our partnership is better than a marriage,
'' Johnson said of her relationship with Bacon. ''We keep our private lives separate, but we've been through a lot together. She keeps the books and I keep the look." Since its inception, the Betsey Johnson label has grown steadily in size and reputation. The company currently has 65 stores worldwide, including locations in London, Toronto and Tokyo.
In 2000, Johnson's fashion career was briefly derailed when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The cancer was detected early; a turn of good luck that resulted from a strange incident when one of her cosmetic breast implants lost its shape. "My doctor said it was an absolute miracle my breast implants deflated," she recalls. "I probably wouldn't have had another mammogram for six months." Johnson underwent radiation therapy, eventually going into remission. Johnson barely lost a step from her ever-youthful ways—after returning to full health, she still managed to complete the trademark cartwheel she performs at the close of her biannual fashion show. She also continued to reimagine her brand and, in 2003, Johnson expanded her label into a lifestyle brand, bringing her signature prints and flair to products such as handbags, footwear, swimwear and jewelry.
Once a young newcomer pioneering new trends in the 1960s, Johnson is now a firmly established veteran in the fashion industry. In 1999, the Council of Fashion Designers of America awarded her its coveted Timeless Talent Award, and in 2009, Johnson received the National Arts Club Medal of Honor for Lifetime Achievement in Fashion. Asked what continues to motivate such an accomplished designer after four decades in the industry, Johnson replied, "I like the everyday process and 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 has been married three times, first to Velvet Underground musician John Cale, from 1968 to 1971. She then married Jeffrey Oliviere in 1981 and, following a second divorce, she married Brian Reynolds in 1997. Johnson and Reynolds have since separated. Johnson has one daughter, Lulu, born in 1975.
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