New York Spring/Summer 2016 Fashion Week Review: Betsey Johnson Forever!

Runway Images by Dan Lecca/Front Row/Backstage Images by The Billy Farrell Agency

American designer and renowned fashion icon, Betsey Johnson returned to New York Fashion Week on Friday, September 11th to present her Spring/Summer 2016 collection, entitled The Curious Case of Betsey Button was a retrospective commemorating Betsey’s 50 colorful years in the fashion industry.

Backstage at the Spring/Summer 2016 Fashion Show (Photo Credit: The Billy Farrell Agency)

Backstage at the Spring/Summer 2016 Fashion Show (Photo Credit: The Billy Farrell Agency)

The show which was held at The Arc, Skylight at Moynihan Station (a soul-sucking show space, if ever there is any), was divided into six defining moments in Betsey’s career and kicked off with Betsey’s signature prom princesses of the 2000’s, followed by the “flower power” of the late 80’s/early 90’s. Next came late 70’s punk, followed by the “trippy hippy” early 70’s Betsey Johnson for Alley Cat. Rounding out the decades were the mod mavens of 60’s Betsey Johnson for Paraphernalia. Narration from Betsey herself played over each defining era, for a real trip down memory lane.

I have long held the view that, much like Bob Mackie and a select few designers that have shown at NYFW over the years, Miss Johnson’s collections are generally above review. By her own admission, she is not out to change the world (too much) or find a cure for athlete’s foot. (She is, however, a staunch supporter for finding a cure for Breast Cancer.) She is about creating a balance: injecting fun into her life and work, while still taking it seriously, BUT not too serious. Hence the signature cartwheel and split at the end of her shows, the seemingly wild, all-over-the-place but cohesive sense that marks the collections. Above all, she’s an extraordinary woman. It’s no wonder then, that she is one of the legendary women to be featured in Timothy Greenfield-Sanders‘ latest “List” documentary, American Masters: The Women’s List, to air on PBS on September 25th.

Betsey Johnson. Credit: © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Betsey Johnson is to be featured in Timothy Greenfield-Saunders‘ American Masters: The Women’s List, a documentary focusing on their individuals’ exceptional achievements, struggles and identities. All trailblazers in their respective fields, these women share their experiences struggling against discrimination and overcoming challenges to make their voices heard and their influence felt. Credit: © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

The spring/summer 2016 collection, while mainly serving as a retrospective, had a lot going for it in the here and now. It was filled with ideas that would—and will– work for the season and beyond. Those strapless “prom princess” dresses were paired with long sleeve, street-ready metallic tops that a girl could wear with her skinny jeans and be on-trend. The Veronica Lake hair-dos was also an amazing addition to the overall looks. The second segment was made all the more delicious by the colorful corsets that circled the models’ waists.

In the “Mud Club” section, the standout piece was the red/black chevron pantsuit with a black leather bandeau top. Here, seeing nine (mostly blonde) models with semi-severe chignons, looking very much like Linda Evangelista in her 80’s prime, was a jolt but hey, it worked.

The fourth section was noteworthy for the scrimped, straight hair deftly reminiscent of the period. It was like watching (in a good way, of course) Square Pegs (starring a young Sarah Jessica Parker), a television sitcom from the 80’s. The standouts here were the fur-trimmed teacup print jacket (paired with the granny boots), the patchwork jacket with faux fur sleeves and the soft, draping long “Stevie Nicks” long-sleeve dress.

The iconic Max’s Kansas City was a nightclub and restaurant at 213 Park Avenue South, in New York City, which became a gathering spot for musicians, poets, artists and politicians (in essence, everyone who was anyone), in the 1960s and 1970s. It was opened by Mickey Ruskin (1933–1983) in December 1965. Max’s quickly became a hangout of choice for artists and sculptors of the New York School, like John Chamberlain, Robert Rauschenberg, Larry Rivers, Larry Poons, Brice Marden, Bob Neuwirth, Roy Lichtenstein, Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Richard Serra, Philip Glass, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, René Ricard, Willem de Kooning, and Barnett Newman. It was also a favorite hangout of Andy Warhol and his entourage, who dominated the back room, including some of the women represented in this section. It also showed the wide range of style of the time, including the navy polka dot mini with a white Peter Pan collar. Stunning.

2015 marked a year long celebration for Johnson. In addition hitting her 50th year in the industry, Betsey was awarded the CFDA Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award. The party will continue into Holiday 2015 as Johnson releases a limited edition 50th Anniversary Collection which includes dresses, activewear, handbags, shoes, jewelry all in a signature Betsey Johnson print.

Krylon did an outstanding job with the bold, colorful makeup on the models, Big Sexy Hair rocked the room with their most excellent work, and skincare by Belif and nails by Morgan Taylor completed the package. Backstage Betsey and her guests enjoyed signature pink Baked by Melissa cupcakes and sipped on sparking wine courtesy of VOGA.

And the signature Split.... (Photo Credit: Dan Lecca)

And the signature Split…. (Photo Credit: Dan Lecca)

The Finale at The Betsey Johnson spring/Summer 2016 Fashion Show. (Photo Credit: Dan Lecca)

The Finale at The Betsey Johnson spring/Summer 2016 Fashion Show. (Photo Credit: Dan Lecca)

Notables including in attendance included: Debbie Harry (who was a waitress at Max’s Kansas City), Maddie Zeigler, Ashley Smith, Luann De Lesseps, Kelly Killoren Bensimon, Karrueche Tran, Shaun Ross, Wynter Gordon, Simon Doonan, Marnie The Dog, Ryan Newman, EJ Johnson, AndrewAndrew, Georgina Burke, Alicia Quarles, Nigel Barker, Fern Mallis, Robert Verdi, Phillip Bloch, Chiara De Blasio, Zoe Silverman, Andrew Bevan, Mariana Hewitt, Natasha Oakley, And Jackie Cruz, Lea Delaria, Emma Myles & Emily Althaus from Orange is the New Black.