For years, iconic designer Betsey Johnson has led the fashion community with her fabulous and eclectic designs. Due to high demand, Betsey is now giving viewers first-time access to her fascinating life on Style's brand new series 'XOX Betsey Johnson" premiering on Thursday, November 21st at 8:30pm AEDT.
With her daughter and muse Lulu Johnson by her side, Johnson is focused on reinventing her brand under the guidance of Steve Madden, after filing for bankruptcy and closing all her stores. Johnson and her daughter have always worked together to expand Johnson's fashion empire, but the pressures of their business relationship have created a co-dependent, sometimes strained, mother-daughter relationship.
Meanwhile, Lulu Johnson is having her own metamorphosis, looking to step out of her mother's shadow and create her own fashion line. Surrounded by a cast of characters, including Brandon, Johnson's right-hand man and personal assistant, and Lulu's outspoken best friend Angela, Johnson takes fans on an exciting ride through her world.
Known for her celebration of the exuberant and extravagant, Betsey Johnson has been rocking the fashion industry with her unique and original designs since the 1960s. The New York-based designer has built her long-standing career in fashion by following her own set of rules.
In 1964, Johnson entered the New York fashion scene by winning Mademoiselle Magazine's "Guest Editor Contest." One year later, she landed the top designer position for Paraphernalia, a clothing boutique that at the time housed the hottest young London designers. Her love of detail and design is evident in everything she does both in life and in business. Johnson's enthusiasm, creativity and boundless talent have kept her at the forefront of fashion for the past 45 years and will keep her going for years to come.
For Lulu Johnson, fashion is in her DNA. As the only daughter of iconic fashion designer Betsey Johnson, she was born and raised in the world of fashion, growing, evolving and outlasting the trends that have been a part of her every day. Always by her mother's side, Lulu became Betsey Johnson's muse and inspiration.
By contributing to the brand at a young age, she developed strong business acumen, her own voice and the skills to lead in different areas of her mother's company. Now, Lulu is actively pursuing the next chapter in her life as a fashion designer. With an original line of apparel and accessories under the "Lulu Johnson" label set to debut this summer, she hopes to be a defining voice in the fashion community, creating bold, new trends – much as her mother has done all these years.
Question: Can you tell us about XOX Betsey Johnson?
Betsey Johnson: I'm so happy that the show is coming to the Australian Style Network, I want our little series to be seen by Australians. I loved filming it and it showcases a true mother-daughter relationship. My daughter and I were at a very unique year in our lives with me going through the bankruptcy and turning that around and my daughter, Lulu going through a rough divorce.
It was a real fun thing, to film the show, during the difficult times. It might not have been as fun for Lulu because it was a rough time, for her. For me it was about having the show behind us and I'm glad my customers in Australia can watch the show.
The show was a wonderful experience and everyone was so supportive of me, I hope everyone enjoys it. It was the best and it got Lulu and I through a tough year.
Question: What is different about this show?
Betsey Johnson: What's different about our show is that it's not dissing or housewiving; people who like my work or know my work will be able to see a side of a designer and the business; I think it's more of a documentary, in a way. It's dramatic comedy but with a documentary style as it showcases eight months with Lulu, the kids, the upstairs and the downstairs, work trips ect ect….
There are very funny parts to the show and like any show there are highly edited parts that don't feel like the real deal but I know it's 85% real deal. There was no script and we had a wonderful director who worked with us from Magical Elves and they are a great production company.
Question: How did you go about getting used to the cameras following you?
Betsey Johnson: To be honest it isn't every little aspect, I wouldn't have allowed that, I like my privacy and I'm not a fashion designer who is also a celebrity with lots of boyfriends (laughs). We like our private time, I have dinner alone, most nights and I am very happy doing that, I love good food and being waited on.
There were certain parts of Lulu's life that she was going through that she said you could not discuss on film. I didn't want them to get too into my private life because it isn't exciting nor is it television quality, I like my private life and let me tell you, it's not interesting. It is however true that I walk down to Lulu's every morning, with my cup of coffee.
Lulu and I work long hours, not 24/7 but we do work long hours… The best parts of the show are when our lives are actually funny. I do also love that the show caught me preparing and presenting the fashion show (including the panic) which was my big 70th Birthday Show which caught everything from the model casting to the actual show. I always wanted to have that on film, documented, and now I do!
Question: Did the show bring you and your daughter even closer?
Betsey Johnson: The only reason for me to do the show was for my work, Lulu and I wouldn't have the content for a show without my work. I know this was a one season gig because even though the clothes do change from pink to green and from short to long, basically it's the same process all year round. I always fall in love with print and the designs but I don't think there is enough content for another show, which is perfect.
I do know that a lot of other mothers and daughters enjoyed the mother/daughter relationship showed in the show. Our relationship is true to what you see in the show as I'm not very -cool' and I don't think -I shouldn't say this…' I just say what I want and I also forgot about the cameras (laughs)! I'm so glad I was able to play around and be myself.
Question: What will you be visiting Australia?
Betsey Johnson: I wish I could be there, everyone sounds so sweet and beautiful. Australia has always been that one little bit too far and I've never had the time. Get out the champagne and chocolates!
Question: What's next for you?
Betsey Johnson: Way too much! I've always wanted to expand into bedding, stationary and more! I am doing a great clothing collaborating gig along with my dress line, coat line, shoes and the aerobics line. The new line will have a vintage feel and it will be so affordable, I am very lucky as I can work on different lines. Although because I'm 71 years old, I seem to lose my train of thought, a lot!
Interview by Brooke Hunter