50th anniversary betsey johnson

50 Years with Betsey Johnson

Wednesday, April 27, 2016 Pearl

Betsey Johnson is a fashion icon, designer, (and dancer!) who has long since been a household name. Her unique, statement designs which combines feminine details, comfortable material, and the right amount of edginess have been a staple in the closets of many young women. It's no wonder that Betsey has been able to successfully maintain and evolve her label over the years. In fact, not too long ago, she celebrated 50 years of being a designer!

Betsey Johnson with event host Micah Jesse
In light of this major milestone, Betsey dropped by Chicago not too long ago to say "hello" to her many fans and to thank them for their support. Many fans of her handbags, shoes, jewelry, clothing, and more, lined up to hug and greet their favorite designer.

Betsey with a fan

Despite her very busy schedule, Betsey made some time for me to interview her while she was in Chicago. I was able to have a brief conversation with her about how she got into fashion, what inspires her designs, and the advice she has for aspiring designers.

Halfstack Magazine: How did you first realize that fashion was your calling?

Betsey Johnson: I won a contest. Before that, I had no idea I could do fashion. I studied art in college, never fashion design.

HSM: What do you think contributed the most to your success?

Betsey Johnson: A lot of luck. Luckily I had something to say and that was what was wanted at the time, even though I didn't know it was wanted. And I worked really hard too.

HSM: How did you find your signature style?

Betsey Johnson: I found my signature style by working. During my first year in 1965 at Paraphernalia, they let me do anything I wanted as long as it sold. So I learned from making stuff, I made the patterns, I went to the factory… I just made clothes for me, that I would want to wear. I was all about t-shirts with a high armhole so you can move without moving your dress up, with a little flip. That was it. That was my formula.

HSM: What do you think draws people into your designs?

Betsey Johnson: They’re a little like me. The girls, the customers, they’re a little like me and that’s why they relate to me.

Betsey receiving a gift from a Chicago artist

HSM: What advice to you have for people who want to pursue a career in fashion?

Betsey Johnson: Put your blinders on and go for it. And realize that sometimes, you have to look at the writing on the wall. If it isn’t happening, maybe try something else. But go for it, in a pure way while forgetting all of the negativity. 

Me & Betsey!

To keep up with Betsey, you can follow her on her social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. If you want to check out some of her clothing, purses, accessories, and more, you can go to her website

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