They said/We said: Betsey Johnson may be bankrupt, but she’s still kicking

Photography by Peter Stigter
Photography by Peter Stigter

Betsey Johnson’s company sent the fashion world into a tizzy on Thursday, having filed for bankruptcy. But not to fret—the party is far from over for the legendarily perky designer. Despite having to close 63 freestanding stores, Johnson will stay on as creative director for the brand focusing on sportswear and her moderately priced line, among other projects.

Well, we wish we could say we didn’t see this coming, but the company was in deep water after a $48 million loan evasion that resulted in a bail out by Steve Madden (Steve Madden Ltd. owns intellectual property rights to the company). The Wall Street Journal explains that the brand’s luxe prices are simply not affordable to its younger demographic and could not compete with lower-priced retailers (H&M, Topshop) targeting the same customer base.

But hold back your tears, because here’s a bit of good news: a few flagship stores will remain open in Manhattan and a few other cities. Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom will continue to carry the collection. Johnson also plans to hold a runway show during Fashion Week in September to promote her more affordable frocks. “I love the moderate price range,” she told WWD. “It is in synch with all the girls who are buying my clothes.”

The 70-year-old will also be cartwheeling onto—what else—reality television. The show, Betsey + Lulu, is set to air this July and will star the designer and her daughter. She will also put her nose to work releasing two more fragrances to follow up last year’s release of Too Too.

This seems like only a minor setback for the resilient designer. With so many projects at hand, we’re sure her rock ‘n’ roll, eccentric aesthetic is sure to stick around.

You can expect store-closing sales to start happening after a company auction on May 8, and they will last through July.


Fashionista: “So while this is a setback for the brand, Betsey Johnson is very much still here. Thank goodness.” [Fashionista]

Huffington Post: “WWD now reports that Johnson still plans on staging a runway show this September. All together now: yay!” [Huffington Post]


Randi Bergman, online editor: “While this news is certainly sad, I can’t say I’m surprised. The label is indeed too pricey for what the market has become and special dresses don’t just come with one type of price tag anymore. I remember dreaming about wearing a Betsey Johnson dress to my prom, but my mom just wouldn’t bite”

More Style