Betsey Johnson On Her Line: ‘I Realized That It Couldn’t Last’

There really is never a dull moment with Betsey Johnson, even when the designer is talking about such humdrum subjects as paying back one’s loans. After bounding in with a cartwheel to last night’s 92Y “Fashion Icons” talk with Fern Mallis, Johnson confessed that she was flummoxed about the financial straits that led to her company declaring bankruptcy in April:

”You know what they do, these equity people? They buy you, you owe the money and the interest on the loan. They give you money that you borrow: they don’t just give you money, you have to pay it back. So between all the consultants and all the wrong people and the upside-down backwards that were hired we had to pay $6 million a year on the stupid $56 million [loan].”

The numbers game may be a little disorienting for the tutu-wearing 70-year-old, but she has always been more of a creative type. “When I was growing up there were no initials,” as she explained. “Now I’ve been told that I have the ADD and the XYZ and whatever.” Easier to wrap her head around as she gears up for new ventures like a reality show and a lower-priced line are the friends and admirers she has gained along the way:

“It was only my fans and people on the street that made me realize what I built for 35 years, and that what I had built was special. I realized that it couldn’t last. It was a long time, 35 years—it outlasted any marriage I’d ever had.”


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