The Fashion Show That Almost Got Away
Betsey Johnson's 70th birthday celebration-cum-runway show last September was a tough act to follow. Cyndi Lauper sang, models wore designs from throughout Johnson's 50-year career, and the audience went positively wild.
So Johnson figured she'd skip doing a Fall 2013 collection. The new line of activewear she was developing, BJ Kicks A, wasn't the stuff of catwalks. "The collection is not very runway-worthy," she said in a public appearance in New York last month.
An outcry of lament followed Women's Wear Daily's mention of the news. Fans reminded Johnson that she has never skipped a show—not during the week of 9/11, when most other designers cancelled, and not when she was all but broke.
Johnson's shows, which double as parties, provide comic relief during a stressful Fashion Week. They are also an emotional reassurance to fragile fashion psyches. Johnson's cartwheel and splits at the end of each show is akin to a mother's hug in the industry: Mama's always there for everyone, and she's going turn it out, come hell or high water.
"After I made the announcement, and it was in WWD, it hit home," Johnson told StyleNetwork.com backstage before last night's fashion show at Lincoln Center. "I was disappointed in myself. I thought, 'I gotta do a show!'"
Johnson met with Steve Madden, who owns her company, and all but demanded that they mount a show. "We put it together in three weeks," she exclaimed. (A typical show involves at least six weeks' planning. Here's why.)
The Fall 2013 show was typical Johnson: a riot of color, energy and goofy insouciance. Raves followed. ABC News called the collection "approachable" and "on-trend." "You need it in your closet," said Fashionado. "Still kicking serious booty," Glamour opined.
How apropos that when Johnson led models through a runway workout, they used champagne bottles as weights.