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Betsey Johnson Does Lord & Taylor

Betsey Johnson draws a certain creative energy from personal appearances - a point she proved Wednesday night at Lord & Taylor's Manhattan flagship.

Betsey Johnson draws a certain creative energy from personal appearances — a point she proved Wednesday night at Lord & Taylor’s Manhattan flagship.

“I try to have one second of really being there with every customer that shows because it’s a huge effort [for customers] to come to a store and show up with such devotion and love and enthusiasm, and buy the perfume and be so drop-dead crazy about me,” said the irrepressible Johnson, who not only hugs but dances around with customers. She was speaking after the appearance, which garnered 200 people and an estimated $7,500 in sales for her eponymous women’s fragrance. “It’s like a fountain of youth to me. It’s such a trip. They give me a hippie love energy that keeps it very exciting.”

Such an attitude is typical of Johnson, whose boundless enthusiasm often shows itself in cartwheels down the runway at her ready-to-wear shows. “I’ve never wanted to be one of those designers on a pedestal,” said Johnson. “I knew 42 years ago that I wanted to be the gal-next-door designer. I was terrified of the pedestal designers. I could never do that. I wanted to be the girlfriend designer.”

And Johnson is at work on a new fragrance. While she kept mum on most of the details, she revealed that, like her first, her next scent was inspired by a vintage fragrance bottle. “We’re waiting to try out the next name to be copyrighted,” she said. “Every name you can think of is copyrighted! I really wanted a Lulu [her daughter’s name] and a Layla [her granddaughter’s name], a name that I can personally relate to — but it’s amazing what’s taken!”

She’s also designing her next rtw collection — “it’s based on what I call my granddaughter and my male friends,” she teased. “It’s very cornball. I can’t tell anymore because I don’t know if it’s copyrighted!”

Johnson is also working on a host of licensing opportunities, including a new legwear line, and color cosmetics are in the discussion stages. But she doesn’t plan to go overboard. “[When it comes to my licenses] I think about ‘what am I missing in my retail stores?'” Johnson said. “But it’s crucial for me to be a big-time part of the licensing, the get-to-know-you, the get-my-drift. Pierre Cardin had 159 licenses….I hope we cap off when it’s way too much for me to be involved in.”

This story first appeared in the June 15, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Johnson also credits her licenses for shaping her upcoming rtw collections. “I’m making my regular collection more like my licensing. The licensing is the true-blue me, and the collection has taken a different turn — but it’s all coming back home to mamacita. We’re all one now — there has to be a unity. Licensing has really shown me what the best of me is like — it’s brighter and happier and younger and less expensive. I love my work more than I ever have before. Isn’t that a trip?”