Photo: Getty Images
Iconic American designer Betsey Johnson filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy yesterday, saying she would close most of her boutiques and focus on her more affordable Macy’s line. Johnson got her start hanging out with Andy Warhol and editing a fashion magazine. Since starting her own fashion label, Johnson has outfitted celebrities including Rihanna, Katy Perry and Reese Witherspoon.
But Johnson’s whimsical $400 dresses just weren’t hitting a sweet spot with customers and siphoned cash from her company.
Betsey Johnson was born in Connecticut in 1942. As a child, she took many dance classes, which she says inspired her love of wild fashions.
Betsey moved to New York after graduation and became a guest editor at Mademoiselle. In her free time, she started sewing together designs.
In the 1960s, Johnson was part of a group of artists mentored by Andy Warhol. The bright colours he used continue to be reflected in her designs today.
In 1978, Betsey Johnson formed her own label and opened boutiques in New York and Los Angeles to rave reviews. The store count eventually expanded to 65.
By 2003, Betsey began expanding her brand to include handbags and lingerie. She's since added jewelry, shoes, swimwear and perfume.
But Johnson's stores were hit by the recession and by 2008 consumers couldn't afford her $395 dresses anymore. Despite these setbacks, the designer continued to outfit celebrities like Katy Perry, Rihanna and Reese Witherspoon.
Shoe tycoon Steve Madden bailed out Betsey Johnson, paying her $48.8 million dollar loan in exchange for rights to her intellectual property.
Johnson also began selling clothing, jewelry and accessories in a mid-priced line at Macy's, which was very popular.
But her boutique's woes were eventually too much. Johnson filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and said she would close most of her boutiques. About 350 employees will lose their jobs.
Johnson has said she is going to focus on her line for Macy's going forward, where designs range from $128 to $148. She said she loves the moderate price range because she can outfit the young people who love her clothing.
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