Q&A with Betsey Johnson

Johson by Ngoc Minh Ngo
Johson by Ngoc Minh Ngo

The iconic designer on her new Archive collection for Opening Ceremony.

How did you pick the pieces that you reproduced for your Betsey Johnson Archive collection?
“Well, I felt that the punk label– you know vintage dealers seem to call it the punk label— it was when we opened from 1978 through about 1990. It was cotton and it had kind of like a Keith Richards-esquey self-photograph of myself on this label, very inexpensive very punky, very, you know, funky because we had very little money. We were all borrowed from the bank matching our own contribution. But anyway, I decided that the punk label clothes were my most favourite. The fabrics the style, even they look, they look very, very forward. And they were so modern. The ’80s was to me a punk, very, very, very modern parallel to the ’60s – you know ‘Let’s go to the moon, wear pantyhose, take our bras off and dance rock-and-roll.’”

These are replications–how did it translate?
“Back then it was like stretch fabric, it was minimal seaming. It was when your shape made the dress, not the dress kind of having shape to begin with, like with all those seams around. Except for metallics and vinyl and slicker fabrics, I think practically every fabric I used was a stretch fabric–a modern stretch fabric. The more feminine side of the collection is using this fabric that everybody knows now: cotton Lycra. That gave a whole new world of real performance stretch. I think it all kind of got going with Jane Fonda and work-out clothes and yet the rebellious punk modern side was also up against that, that working woman’s wardrobe concept.”

What is your favourite piece from the Archive collection?
“My favourite I would say is the black zip car length coat with these big spiky black fake-fur sleeves. It looks modern, not dated; it’s the big-shoulder look but it doesn’t look like shoulder pads. That’s just one of my favourites.

Do you have plans to collaborate with Opening Ceremony on anything else after this?
“They asked me to do a spring collection as well. They wanted me to go to the real feminine side of me, be it cabbage-rose prints and little rose-bud prints and then I’m continuing with a white satin spandex. It’s very pink, red, white and then funky kind of over-dyed—the Barbie kind of colour scheme. And then there’s like an old antique-y Aunt Barbie—same colours but funked and grayed down and subtle and more street. It’s either flowers or S&M-y sexy prints that I tried to do it in—and it’s like ‘are you kidding?’”

Betsey Johnson Archive is currently available at openingceremony.us.

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