Defining Moments: Wheel of Fortune

Betsey Johnson wasn’t allowing any pesky business troubles to spoil her runway fun.

Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD Collections issue 11/08/2010

Betsey Johnson wasn’t allowing any pesky business troubles — even losing control of her company — to spoil her runway fun. An ode to New York, Johnson’s show kicked off with a video of Manhattan’s neighborhoods, her family and herself exuberantly biking around Lincoln Center. Her models, carrying skateboards and wheels, sported madcap track jackets, biker shorts and bodysuits, then moved onto playful bustle-back gowns, Seventies floral flocks and sailor styles. The show was pure Johnson: spunky, high-octane and high-camp leading to her signature cartwheels down the runway at the finale.

This story first appeared in the November 8, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Within days, Johnson had a new business plan and chief executive officer Susan Falk in place, replacing longtime ceo Chantal Bacon. Steven Madden Ltd. took over a $48.8 million loan to Johnson’s firm and then absolved the loan in exchange for ownership of the brand’s intellectual property, including the moderate collection Betseyville. Madden now has licensing deals with the designer’s company, Betsey Johnson LLC, for it to produce the clothing and operate her boutiques and get royalties from Johnson’s firm and its other licensees. Madden pumped in $3 million to help cover BJ LLC’s operating needs over the next five years and, in exchange, Steven Madden Ltd. gets a 10 percent equity in that operating company. And Johnson, it appears, is staying put as the creative engine behind the brand.