Betsey Johnson

NEW YORK — Betsey Johnson is getting ready to embark on a new adventure — handbags.<BR><BR>The designer signed a licensing agreement with New York-based leather goods manufacturer Daniel M. Friedman and Associates Inc. last week for a...

NEW YORK — Betsey Johnson is getting ready to embark on a new adventure — handbags.

The designer signed a licensing agreement with New York-based leather goods manufacturer Daniel M. Friedman and Associates Inc. last week for a handbags collection bound to be as quirky and offbeat as Johnson herself.

“It’s glam-rock, very Hong Kong and Tokyo, very Barbie Doll,” Johnson said, entering her showroom last Wednesday for a meeting with Kenny Horowitz, the licensee’s president of handbags, and Paige Novick, its creative director. (Novick had her own collection, Frou by Paige Novick, for nine years before joining the 10-year-old vendor — which also makes accessories for JLo, Ellen Tracy, Fina Firenze, Steve Madden and Union Bay — in January.)

“When we met, the chemistry was right,” Horowitz said. “The inspiration we got from her was incredible. Does anybody need another handbag line? No, but Betsey inspired us.”

The team is putting together the collection to launch during the November accessories market, with a retail rollout planned for February.

“What’s more important than dresses, than any piece of clothing?” quipped Johnson. “Accessories rule. It’s the accessories that mean everything. It’s the bag that describes the girl.”

The handbags are expected to feature Johnson’s rosebud motif, which is also prominent in the designer’s jeans and lingerie. “Very Barbie meets Hello Kitty,” Johnson said.

“‘Hello Betsey,’” interjected Novick. “It will be organic with synthetic, plastic with straw — and lots of little details.”

There will be 40 to 50 pieces, some of which will be previewed at Johnson’s runway show in September. The collection is to be distributed to Johnson’s 43 boutiques, higher-end department store and better specialty stores that Betsey is available in, Horowitz said. Wholesale prices are anticipated to range from $45 to $100. Horowitz said he projects the business will be $10 million a year.

“We are in a phase of expanding our categories, and we used to do everything in-house,” said Chantal Bacon, Johnson’s partner in the firm. “Now, with our stores, we realized it would be better to partner with someone to help with distribution.”

This story first appeared in the July 26, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Bacon said the company is exploring other accessories opportunities, including eyewear and home accessories.

“With jeans and shoes and lingerie and bags, we could go into popcorn and salad dressing,” Johnson said.