Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine Love... Betsey Johnson's Romantic Creations in Home and Fashion Design and Interview

What is Valentine's day without a little Betsey Johnson love? After all, she is the most feminine, fun and flirty of all. Betsey Johnson has over 40 years in the fashion business. She has a unmistakable flirty, feminine and edgy fashion line. Betsey Johnson has dressed everyone from underground film legend Edie Sedgwick to the Velvet Underground and numerous other rock stars and groupies.

Today, Johnson’s clothes, a new signature fragrance and her home collection continue that tradition. Her influences, she says, range from Dorothy Draper to Andy Warhol to the Empress Eugenie. “I like houses that totally reflect their owners,” she said. In her case, that means everything from hot pink silk sheets and leopard print pillows to relatively demure cabbage rose pattern quilts and duvets.

Here's a great insightful interview found at
Are you the rock and roll Martha Stewart?

Not yet, but who knows? Home merchandise is exciting to me right now because nobody is really doing what I’m doing. Love it or hate it, it’s definitely the missing link in the current home market.

How did it begin?

I went to Mexico three years ago and saw this tiny hotel for sale on the beach in Barra de Potosi, a little fishing village not too far from Acapulco, and decided to buy it. It was a pretty spontaneous decision. It needed to be updated so I started painting and decorating and looking at wallpaper. It was the first time I had ever done anything like that. I wound up bringing 26 chandeliers and a ton of other stuff down from New York in two 54-foot moving trucks. It was a fantastic experience. It opened up an entire new world to me.

What’s the finished look?

Very floral, loud, colorful and a little kitschy. I knew Andy Warhol back in the 1960s and the floral patterns and color intensities I used at the hotel – which, by the way, I have re-named Betseyville – remind me of his work.

Is designing home merchandise different than designing clothing?
Not really. You want to be creative and courageous in your dress and the same is true of your home. If anything, home is a little more challenging because there’s so many different elements to consider. When you’re designing clothing, you really only have one point of focus and that’s the body. But home is fabrics and furniture and floors and natural light. If fashion is a planet, home is more like a universe.

You’re known as a funky rock and roll designer – is that the tone of the home merchandise?

I do get typecast as the blast-out kid. I like girly, I like glamorous, and I like gorgeous. But that covers a lot of ground. My home collection is very personal and pretty much based on what I have in my own houses.

How many do you have?

Three, plus the hotel. There’s an apartment in New York, a house in East Hampton and another house in Mexico. They’re all very different. New York has kind of a glamorous Hollywood boudoir feel, East Hampton is very floral and feminine and the Mexico house is very neutral and modern with cement arches and columns. The collection reflects all of that.

What’s the first thing you do when redecorating a room?

I ask myself how do I want this room to feel? Do I want it to be sexy? Elegant? Modern? Edgy? You decide on a feeling and take it from there.

We’re seeing a lot of Mid-Century Modern ideas in home Merchandise right now. Is that a style you’re drawn to?

No. I find that stuff a little cold and hard. And I’m not big on ’50s colors. For instance, I have an original Knoll womb chair from that period but never really liked it until I had it recovered in bright pink wool. Now it works. But that’s typical for me. I’ve never been someone who could just buy something out of a store and bring it home. I usually have to send it out to have the fabric or the color changed.

What kind of house did you grow up in?

Very Doris Day middle class and not stylish in the least. In fact, totally unfashionable.

Where did your own considerable sense of style come from?
When I was growing up, I wanted to be a dancer. During junior high and high school, I studied in New York. There’s a whole world of pretend that goes with that – costumes and makeup and jewelry. That’s what got me interested in style. The ’60s did the rest.

Do you have any family heirlooms?

A frying pan from my Aunt Bertha. She was a smorgasbord cook at a Swedish restaurant in Manhattan for many years. Also, an old school desk I used when I was little. My granddaughter plays with it. But that’s about it.

What’s the coolest house you’ve ever seen?

I just got back from a vacation in the south of France where I stayed at the Palace Hotel in Biarritz. It was built as a palace for the Empress Eugenie back in the 1800s. It’s the drop dead house of all time: everything – couches, chairs, tables – Louis this and Louis that. Total over-the-top decadent luxury. I love it!

May your Valentine's weekend be filled
with unexpected delights
and all things lovely.
Thanks for stopping by and Happy Valentine's Day
to my sweet blogger friends!


Photo credits: found on flickr and Elle UK


sinnlighet said...

I am always so deeply impressed with your amazing ability of creating. God, how beautiful.

Lots of love

Agneta, the swedish one o;)

Karyn Bernard (French Charming) said...

Hi Sweet Friend,

What a lovely post full of wonderful eye candy. I just adore Betsey Johnson and her fun and vibrant style and I want that shower!!

Happy Valentine's Day! Have a wonderful day filled with love!!


Catanya said...

It is always an honour to read a comment from you in my blog.
And even more after reading an entry like this.
Have the loveliest V*Day!

Couture Carrie said...

Gorgeous post, darling C!

Happy Valentine's Day!


Anonymous said...

I love Betsey, she's such an inspiration on so many levels, thanks so much for posting this interview :)

elledee said...

I love betsey johnson and I would die for a room filled with balloons!

Mélanie said...

I'm totally in love with the 1 st pic . I love her taste . Inspiring post

Torie Jayne said...

Gorgeous post! I love that top pic!

Red Lipstick Style said...

Betsy is just the post for Valentines Day! Her stores just make me swoon and I always wish that I had places to go to justify buying some of her incredible dresses!

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houses for sale philippines said...

What a lovely pillows. Very fashionable rooms too.

Deirdre G

Sneha said...

Beautiful information on Valentines Day. Keep sharing with us.
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