When Betsey Johnson declared bankruptcy last spring, die-hard fans mourned the shuttering of the brand that gave so many their first prom dress. But Johnson’s comeback seemed to start as soon as the dust from her store closures had settled with the announcement of a new reality show and a lower priced dress line.
A meaty profile in today’s New York Times takes a closer look at Johnson’s new projects–and sheds some light on why Johnson had to file for bankruptcy in the first place.
According to the Times, the brand opened tons of new stores in 2007, then experienced loss of sales when the economy tanked the following year–resulting in the company defaulting on a $48 million dollar loan.
But Johnson has another theory. “We were bogged down in five-year projections,” she said. “Or maybe it all began when stores started knocking off my $250 prom dresses for $49.” Steve Madden, who took an ownership stake in the brand in 2010, was a bit more blunt about it: “They had delusions of building a huge company and going public,” he said. “So they borrowed a lot of money, they had too many stores, and their rents were too high.”
The answer? Johnson’s new dress line, also called Betsey Johnson, which will be sold for a reasonable $99 to $249 at Macy’s, Nordstrom, and other retailers. The line, according to Macy’s VP Lisa Andriulli, will have Betsey’s youthful aesthetic but still work for women up to 40 years old. And they’ll be “sized more generously.”
Then there’s that reality series, aptly titled The Betsey and Lulu Show, debuting in March on the Style Network which will undoubtedly help to introduce Johnson’s brand to a new generation of consumers. The show follows the mother/daughter duo as Lulu tries to launch her own fashion label. (Johnson also apparently has a huge crush on a 30-year-old “scruffy” cameraman from the show named Ben.)
Truth be told, we’re kind of in awe of 70-year-old Johnson and her boundless energy. “I’ll be so depressed when I can’t do [cartwheels] anymore,” she said. “At that point, you may as well just put me in a wheelchair.” Don’t worry too much, Bets, we really don’t see that happening anytime soon.