As a tried-and-true New Yorker for more than 50 years, Betsey Johnson isn’t about to give up her day job — but she is going bicoastal.
After clearing out her East Hampton house Friday, the designer phoned to talk about her new dancewear deal with Capezio and Wednesday’s plans to “JetBlue” it to Malibu with her daughter Lulu, son-in-law Arthur Margulies and their two children.
“They’re over New York. Arthur is a lawyer and his company loves him so much he will be able to work by the beach in a bathrobe. The kids will be going to a public school with boys and girls and they can wear whatever they want to. It will be a very different routine than the Upper East Side,” said Johnson, who will keep her uptown apartment even though her daughter has sold theirs in the same building. “I’m going to meet a groovy old surfer dude. I’m still going to be doing what I do. I’ll just be doing that half the time in the sand and half the time on the cement.”
Johnson said she has no interest in stopping working. “I love my job, my friends and my apartment here. I just can’t be separated from my granddaughters and my daughter,” said the designer. “I can do everything by e-mail, mail, FedEx, messenger, on my iPad and by Skype. The first thing I’m going to do when I get to L.A .is to buy myself a big MacBook Air to Skype. I need to see people. I hate e-mail. I know the Internet is wonderful but it’s not my style.”
Dancing, of course, is more the tutu-loving designer’s speed, having competed on “Dancing With The Stars.” “When we were taping the show in L.A., I had an apartment near The Grove. I honestly had a halfway decent time out there doing the dancing. Otherwise, you would never get me below 14th Street” in Manhattan.
With Capezio, her first dancewear collection will debut July 1 online and in Capezio’s stores nationwide. Capezio’s newly minted brand ambassador, Maddie Ziegler, whom Johnson first met in Los Angeles as a “DWTS” competitor, will model in this summer’s Betsey Johnson for Capezio campaign. Having practiced ballet and danced throughout her life, Johnson, who has referred to her style as “take a leotard then add a skirt,” actually freelanced for Capezio in the Sixties. “It was one of my very first jobs as a freelancer,” Johnson said. “I always felt very happy in Capezio. I grew up wearing it — I danced in it.”
Retailing from $20 to $120, her Capezio designs will include nylon spandex leggings, briefs, camis, leotards, graphic-printed tops and tutus in quintessential Betsey Johnson prints such as florals, stripes and flashes of hot pink. Noting the deal is more of a let’s-see-how-it-goes arrangement, Johnson said she was more definite about design. “The one thing I wanted it to be from the start was iconic — so lots of roses, cherries and rock ’n’ roll motifs — and tutus.” Her fall runway show will feature models wearing Capezio flesh-colored fishnet legwear, and dancers may be part of the lineup.
Despite accepting her Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award at last week’s CFDA Awards with one of her signature cartwheel-split combos, Johnson said she hadn’t done one since her “DWTS” appearance in October. “I look fit and I act fit, but I do nothing [athletically.] I’m very active and I move around a lot,” she said. “So in Malibu, I’m hoping to figure out, ‘Do I like yoga? Do I like Pilates…’ I will wear a lot of Capezio in L.A. Work is great, but I need to figure out what life is.”